Getting Smarter With Lighting - Phil Kett Of Zumtobel Group Explains

PapaJohnsMaking lighting smarter requires a combination of the latest technologies and a more user-focused approach. Phil Kett of Zumtobel Group explains

It is no exaggeration to say that lighting control is undergoing a transformation, in terms of both the way control is achieved and the capability of doing more than simply controlling the lighting. As a result, electrical engineers and lighting designers have an opportunity to provide better, more tailored solutions that add value for end clients in a number of ways.

In terms of the way lighting control is achieved there is now a strong trend towards using ‘plug and play’ connectivity to integrate the lighting control network with other networks and control the lighting through a PC.

However, this doesn’t mean that lighting control can become the domain of general networking companies; considerable lighting expertise is still required to achieve acceptable results. Someone whose focus has been Ethernet network design and installation is unlikely to have the required knowledge to design a lighting system, calculate lighting levels and ensure compliance with appropriate legislation.

The key advantage is that these developments give lighting specialists the tools to provide a better solution for the end-user – ensuring the right lighting in the right place at the right time. Achieving this also requires a change in focus from ‘how to control’ to ‘why to control’.

Growing integration
A good example of the closer integration between lighting control and other networks is the increasing use of software as a gateway between the Internet protocol (IP) used on the general network and the DALI protocol on the lighting control system. All that users need to do is type in the appropriate IP address and they are able to control individual lights, change lighting scenes and manage every aspect of the system.

However, it’s important to ensure the lighting control interface is as simple as possible so that non-specialists are able to take advantage of this increased control. For the building operator it also avoids the need to pay for an expensive controls specialist every time minor changes to the lighting are required.

Simplifying infrastructure
Smarter lighting also provides an opportunity to reduce the complexity that is commonly found in modern workplaces, taking advantage of the communication functionality that has become known as the ‘Internet of Things’.

For instance, a modern office will often contain a range of sensors scattered across the ceiling, which some architects refer to as ‘ceiling acne’. These may be used for smoke detection, temperature detection, lighting control, security and perhaps to control the window blinds.

This is clearly a complex arrangement that not only lacks aesthetic appeal but also requires considerable duplication of sensor technology and the cabling that powers it – a far from ‘smart’ solution. Making better use of the infrastructure that is already present in the majority of these buildings, namely the lighting system, is the obvious way to provide much needed simplification.

In this ‘Internet of Lighting’ the data captured by, say, occupancy sensors for controlling the lighting can also be used for other purposes. A single, discreetly located occupancy sensor can forward its data to the HVAC systems, window blinds and security management system, as well as the lighting control system.

It may also become possible for a single sensor to control all of the requirements of a space. One obvious example is an occupancy sensor in a toilet that controls both the lighting and the solenoids responsible for urinal flushing.

Such a sensor can be installed in a luminaire so that it is hardly visible, as a cure for ‘ceiling acne’. If these sensors are installed in a number of luminaires it will enable the data to be evaluated in much finer detail, perhaps to optimise the lighting and temperature control for a single workstation.

The same principle can be applied to car park lighting, linking presence sensors to satellite navigation and guiding drivers to free parking spaces. And, of course, there are many other similar examples.

The luminaires can also be used to discreetly ‘host’ other technologies such as Bluetooth transmitters, enabling people to navigate a space via their smart ‘phones. Again, a key advantage is that no extra power supply or separate batteries are required to run these devices.

Managing space
This occupancy data can also be used by the facilities management team to assess how each space is being used. Traditionally, such space utilisation studies are very resource-intensive and, for that reason, are only carried out occasionally. This means that FMs rarely have an up-to-date picture of space usage. Harvesting current data from lighting occupancy sensors will enable them to manage their space far more effectively.

To that end, our company is already trialling a dashboard that pulls in information from lighting occupancy sensors to provide a graphical overview of occupancy patterns.

Nor should we lose sight of the opportunity to greatly enhance the way that the lighting is controlled. In addition to the usual parameters that are monitored by lighting systems, such as daylight and occupancy, there are sensors that can also measure colour temperature. When linked to tuneable white lighting this means that the colour temperature can be adjusted to suit changing conditions.

Taking this principle slightly further, there are now sensors that use charge coupled device (CCD) technology to detect contrast and are a clever alternative to a PIR sensor. These have the ability to ‘understand’ the activity in the space. If they detect that people are walking around they will change the lighting to suit circulation. If someone is standing close to the wall the system may assume a presentation is taking place and switch to presentation mode.

This same sensor can also detect when people are in a meeting and select a suitable lighting scene, which can include reducing the amount of direct light if it detects that reflective screens (tablets, computers) are in use.


The key point here is that technologies now exist to use the lighting infrastructure in better ways, to control the lighting and much more. For specifiers, the important thing is to consider how these technologies can be applied to best suit the requirements of each end client, teaming up with experts where appropriate.


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