Lighting manufacturers and IoT companies form new alliance

A range of lighting manufacturers, connected technology companies and industry groups have come together to form a new industry alliance.

The IoT-Ready Alliance is aimed at making the installation of Internet of Things technology in luminaires easier for now and in the foreseeable future.

It’s currently going through the process of creating new industry standards that can make LED lighting IoT-ready, facilitating the quick installation of connected sensors.

Like changing a lightbulb
The companies involved say they want to make installing IoT technology as easy as changing a lightbulb and to help building operators upgrade their lighting infrastructure easily.

The Alliance, they hope, will encourage more organizations to future-proof their premises as IoT technology continues to advance at a rapid rate.

According to the Alliance, lighting fixtures are ideal for carrying IoT technology in smart buildings. They can provide granular data and deliver electric power to the sensors.

However, today, many LED fixtures lack smart sensors. When an LED fixture is initially installed, adding additional sensors later on can be costly.

Cutting installation costs
Currently, LED fixtures last for around 15 years or more, while IoT and smart sensor technology is evolving rapidly. So IoT technology upgrades will almost certainly happen.

The IoT-Ready Alliance wants to find a cost-effective, low-impact method of changing sensors. Joe Costello, CEO of sensor and analytics platform company Enlighted and a member of the Alliance, said this issue needs to be solved immediately.

“There is tremendous urgency to enable today’s shipping LED luminaires to be easily upgraded with IoT technology. Otherwise, these luminaires condemn buildings to be unintelligent for the entire lifecycle of those fixtures,” he said.

“Fifteen or more years is a long time before building owners have another chance to install smart sensors. With IoT-Ready fixtures, customers can install future-proof LED luminaires in their buildings.”

Finding the solution
IoT Ready is looking to design and standardize an interface between any luminaire and any IoT sensor, allowing sensors to be added or upgraded at any point in time.

Guido van Tartwijk, CEO at smart lighting company Tridonic, said: “We are very pleased key players from the lighting industry have come together to meet the needs of our customers, and Tridonic is a driving part of it.

“IoT-Ready future-proofs lighting fixtures so that customers do not have to worry about forward compatibility to upcoming technology upgrades that are expected in the fast-developing world of IoT.”

Before the alliance can issue a comprehensive interface that works for every company, it needs to identify and standardize key characteristics. Both fixture-integrated and external will be addressed.

Standards will include definitions for electrical interfaces, connectors, and mechanical form-factors, although deadlines haven’t been announced as of yet.

Addressing a growing problem
Gabe Arnold, technical director at DesignLights Consortium, said: “IoT-based lighting systems have tremendous potential to optimize energy efficiency and bring new kinds of value to the lighting and building industries and beyond.

“By standardizing the interface between these IoT systems and the luminaires they are attached to, the IoT-Ready Alliance is addressing an essential aspect needed to unlock the full technology potential and enable widespread adoption.”

Initial alliance members include HP-owned Aruba, Click Technology, Deco Lighting, DesignLights Consortium, Enlighted, ERP Power, Focal Point, Mean Well, Orion Energy Systems, Selux, Shenzhen Lighting Control, Silergy Corp, Tridonic, Universal Lighting Technologies and USAI Lighting.

Alliances must consider vendors
Connected technology alliances are far from new, though, and some people have questioned how useful they are. Scott Lehmann, VP of product management and marketing at Petrotechnics, said they only work if vendors are involved.

“At the heart of the IoT is interconnectedness; of people, business process and technology. In order to realize the huge promise of the IoT in terms of tangible benefits around increasing productivity, reducing risk and cutting costs – IoT vendor alliances are fundamental,” he said.

“An IoT vendor alliance is not just an integration exercise between their respective technologies. It requires vendors to work collaboratively with customers to unlock the potential in disparate data sources and provide meaningful relationships between these.

“If not, customers will be on a first class journey to disillusionment, due to unmet expectations of promised integration benefits. This means moving beyond the hype and providing joined up IoT solutions that provide real, tangible customer benefits.”

By: Nicholas Fearn

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