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Lighting fixtures are an ideal carrier for Internet of Things (IoT) technology in smart buildings, providing ubiquitous location for granular data collection throughout the building while delivering electric power to the sensors. Yet today, only a small percentage of LED fixtures have smart sensors.

This month, many leading lighting and LED driver manufacturers, IoT technology companies, and industry groups have established the IoT-Ready Alliance dedicated to making installation of IoT technology in luminaires easy now and in the future.

“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,” said Guido van Tartwijk, CEO at Tridonic. “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.”

Therefore, the Alliance aims to set industry standards that will enable LED light fixtures to be “IoT-Ready,” facilitating a quick and easy installation of advanced IoT sensors, which is as simple as changing a light bulb. This will also enable building operators to easily upgrade the sensors, ultimately future-proofing their buildings as IoT technology continues to advance at a much more rapid pace than that of LED fixtures.

LED light fixtures typically boast a long lifetime of 15 years or more, while IoT and smart sensor technology is evolving rapidly, at a similar pace to that of the mobile phone. This means major IoT technology upgrades will certainly occur throughout the LED fixture’s life. These upgrade cycles for the IoT sensors call for a cost-effective, low-impact method of changing sensors.

“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. 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,” stresses Joe Costello, CEO of alliance member Enlighted.

The Alliance’s initiative addresses this challenge head on – standardizing an interface between any luminaire and any IoT sensor. This allows the sensors to be easily added or upgraded at any point in time. They believe that after the initial installation of LED fixtures, installing a sensor becomes cost prohibitive, making the later addition of sensors unlikely.

“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,” said Gabe Arnold, Technical Director at DesignLights Consortium. “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.”

The IoT-Ready Alliance is currently working to standardize the key interface characteristics needed to make this happen. Both fixture-integrated and external sensors are being addressed. The IoT-Ready standards will include definitions for electrical interfaces, connectors, and mechanical form-factors. Members bring expertise from across the lighting and IoT spectrum.

Initial industry partners include ARM, Aruba (a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company), Click Technology Co., Ltd., DECO Lighting, DesignLights Consortium, Enlighted, ERP Power LLC, Focal Point, MEAN WELL, Orion Energy Systems, Inc., Selux, Shenzhen Lighting Control Co., Silergy Corp, Tridonic, Universal Lighting Technologies and USAI Lighting.

This is just the kind of standardization the IoT sector needs to make the leap from a fragmented market with lots of potential, to a ubiquitous and harmonized technology in smart buildings. The alliance is not alone in seeing lighting as the ideal path to this goal; Memoori’s latest lighting report highlights the same promise.

“The transition to LEDs for lighting has come at the same time as the development of the Internet of Things,” states the report – Smart Buildings: The Lighting Controls Business. “The Building Internet of Things (BIoT), is about to disrupt the building automation systems (BAS) industry and opens up the possibility for lighting control to play a much more important role.”

Memoori has long stood by this view, maintaining that few systems hold the potential of lighting for the IoT in smart buildings. In an article last year, Lighting Positions Itself at the Heart of Smart Buildings, we outlined that, “every light, appliance, air conditioner, computer, and human being will have one or more sensors, and a pervasive lighting network can act as the platform to connect this wide variety of ‘things.’”

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