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The Internet of Things (IoT): What Is It and What Does It Have to Do with Lighting?

The Internet of Things (IoT): What Is It and What Does It Have to Do with Lighting?

IOT or the Internet of Things allows total connectivity, to control
Published on April 11, 2023

Last updated on April 11, 2023 2:53 pm


Progress toward specification-grade, voice-activated commercial lighting is accelerating dramatically. Imagine saying out loud: “Make the lights orange in the lobby,” “Add natural light to the fitness space,” or “Turn the lights off in the baby’s room,” with instantaneous results.

Possibilities range from basic commands to more complex lighting controls using artificial intelligence (AI) for privacy, healthcare, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and space functionality applications. These components comprise what the industry has termed the Internet of Things (IoT). 

U.S. Department of Commerce infographic showing how IoT fosters interconnectivity for apps, automation, data, networks, smart home technology
Credit: The U.S. Department of Commerce

Defining the IoT

What exactly is the IoT? Oracle, the world’s largest database management company, defines the IoT as a “network of physical objects—‘things’—embedded with sensors, software and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the Internet.” Some projections forecast that the number of IoT items will grow to 22 billion within four years. 

According to IBM, connecting any device with an on/off switch to the Internet (and other connected devices) amounts to IoT as “a giant network of connected things and people—all of which collect and share data about the way they are used and about the environment around them.”

Cisco Systems notes that IoT took root between 2008 and 2009, though the phrase Internet of Things was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, a Procter and Gamble brand manager (however, Ashton concedes that “Internet for Things” would be more grammatically correct).

How IoT is affecting the lighting industry

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute scholar Robert Karlicek, an electrical, computer and systems engineering professor and director of the Center for Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications, has written extensively about the effects of AI and the IoT on lighting technologies.

Dr. Karlicek points out that today’s AI and other technologies if properly adopted in the lighting industry, have the potential to establish a process for gauging and tracking “building occupancy, temperature, CO2 level information and humidity data.”

In an article, Karlicek observed that, judging by statistics, there are three times more IoT sensors than humans and that IoT’s value for lighting companies comes from data generation using light fixture sensors. This may lead to investment in the development of what he regards as disruptive technologies, such as solid-state lighting (SSL). 

According to the Lighting Control Association, when integrating IoT, LED lighting can be more readily used across multiple platforms. 

Modern kitchens may soon be equipped with IOT lighting
LED lighting is readily adaptable to IoT controls for features such as dimming and RGBW color tuning.

New IoT-based lighting products 

Tridonic and Enlighted, lighting companies headquartered in Silicon Valley, California, co-created what they call an IoT-ready alliance. Among their first endeavors, the companies specify a socket allowing any type of IoT sensor or control module “to connect seamlessly to a luminaire or other building system.” 

The businesses’ first products are based on this new specification, which is being developed under a royalty-free license and will be designed with any network protocol, including WiFi and EtherNet/IP, among others. The specification is backward-compatible with legacy lighting controls and can be implemented with traditional lighting controls.

The joint progress of Enlighted and Tridonic also makes possible various interoperable solutions to smart building interface problems, including in-field retrofitting, replacements and upgrades without disassembly. 

In the future, IoT for lighting may integrate advanced sensors for radar, imaging, autonomous vehicles, healthcare analytics and voice-activated smart home applications. Dr. Karlicek anticipates that IoT could “provide color-tunable lighting designed to improve human health and wellness.”

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M.Catherine Bell
1 year ago

GREAT Article. As a Designer I always am looking for the next incredible thing and to share with my clients the new technologies and creative designs in lighting and all aspects of life. Thank you.