Comment, Lighting Controls

The week the lighting industry changed forever

George Washington crossing the Delaware River during the American Revolution. Don't be lulled into inaction like the British in Boston Harbour in 1773....IoT will be the next revolution in the lighting industry and you need to be prepared.

The next revolution in lighting has arrived in the form of IoT (Internet of Things) and it’s going to change everything.

I’ve been talking about the technological leap forward that IoT represents with a lot of people in the lighting industry, but mostly I am met with blank looks whenever I raise the topic. IoT is even dismissed by some as something that won’t be coming to fruition any time soon.

Ironically, I used to get exactly the same response when I spoke about LEDs some 15 years ago. Change takes time as Bill Gates once said:

I tend to be an early adopter of technology but sometimes I fail to spot the trend. I could not, at first, for example, understand YouTube. Why would you want to make your own video and share it on the Internet? Why would you want to watch that video on a tiny screen on a mobile phone, while sitting on a bus? Yet 11 years on Lux has its own YouTube channel, which has clocked up over 1.4 million views. This is, of course, quite pathetic, when placed in comparison with the multi-millions of views that funny cat videos attract.

The birth of YouTube came well before smartphones and high speed mobile connectivity, it needed some other megatrends to develop for it to rise to its full potential

Now, let’s get one thing clear, the term ‘smart’ is not a replacement for dimmable. Just because you can dim your lights with a smart phone does not mean that you are at the forefront of the IoT revolution. Instead IoT hides in various overused and sometimes difficult to understand terms, Connected Lighting, Smart CitiesLiFi and PoE, being just a few. These are the trends that are helping IoT to take off.

Verizon, the American communications company have bought Sensity in order to widen their IoT offering.

So why has the world changed this week?  For starters Verizon, one of the world’s largest mobile phone operators, purchased Sensity Systems. Hugh Martin the CEO spoke at one of our conferences two years ago, his vision was simple, all lights are going to be replaced with LED over the next ten years, so, he said, when we do the conversion let’s pack them full of sensors, cameras and wireless networking devices and use the network to build new business apps.

It was jaw dropping for our audience at the time, but Hugh was right on the money. While Sensity’s gun shot detection app may not find a ready use in Europe, Verizon clearly see value in some of their products that they can offer to their millions of subscribers, leveraging the data collected by millions of lighting points.

The Amazon Echo, which allows users to switch on their lights with the sound of their own voice.

Next up, Amazon. The multi-billion-dollar corporation has added the ability to control lighting to its Alexa digital assistant. If you haven’t had cause to buy one yet, Alexa is part of the Amazon Echo, which is a smart speaker that is able to respond to voice commands.

For years we have talked about the death of the light switch and the reason given to prevent this is that people don’t want to reach for a smart phone in the middle of the night to turn the lights on, even though your smart phone is surely going to be closer to your bed than the nearest light switch.

The giving of verbal instructions could well be the true intuitive lighting control, but it won’t work for me, as my wife says I have a habit of talking in my sleep, and lighting is frequently the subject.

The Yellow Dot program allows manufacturers to develop LEDs that work with Philips’ indoor positioning technology.

Of course, Amazon won’t be making lights, although they do have their own brand, Amazon Essentials, so rule nothing out when it comes to anticipating the next move of this cunning company.

Amazon currently relies upon other manufacturers to make devices compatible with Alexa, such as LiFx smart lamps. If I made residential lighting controls I would be very concerned about this move. Lighting control is moving from the cupboard to being in the lamp, and the user interface is migrating from the wall plate to an Amazon owned device.

Finally, Philips has open sourced their light based indoor location system, which is perhaps a canny move for the future. Many smaller OEM’s can’t play in the IoT space and clients and designers will not want to be held to ransom in order to buy Philips fixtures to implement a system.

It also gets Philips away from the dirty business of having to sell rapidly commoditising fixtures. Instead they simply collect data from lighting and sell it on to the end user. Thus data starts to replace lamps as a continuous revenue stream.

These are, of course, just announcements from the last week. But if you throw into the mix Cisco and Acuity Brands buying tech companies with gusto and huge, but lesser known, companies such as Delta Electronics who snapped up Loytec Electronics earlier in the year, you start to realise that the stage is being set for a revolution.

Big technology companies want to use the installation of LEDs to harvest as much data as they can.

It’s becoming clear that big technology companies want to be active on the lighting scene. They don’t want to join in our fun debates about standards, colour quality, lamp bases, glare and flicker though. All they want to do is gain access to the billions of lighting fixtures in the word and harvest the data they collect, enabling new business models to be built that don’t exist today.

You may not believe me, and I’m sure you can find hundreds of reasons as to why it just will not happen…but, read my lips, in ten years time IoT will be on everyone’s mind.

  • As Bill Gates said ‘Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction’, get yourself along to LuxLive on Wednesday 23 November and Thursday 24 November 2016 in London, and join in the debate at our IoT Arena. We will be exploring the full gamut of IoT mixed up with a spot of live hacking to at least give you some reasons to avoid technology.






  • You can find out much more about the IoT revolution by tuning into our upcoming webinar on the subject. ‘Lighting and IoT – why this revolution will change everything’, will be broadcast on 26 October and you can find out more by clicking here.