Industrial, IoT/Smart Lighting, News

Virgin Media cuts energy by 99% with IoT lighting

A Virgin Media engineer installs broadband for client Bloor Homes across the north of England.

UK BROADBAND and cable TV provider Virgin Media has cut the energy used for lighting at a technical centre by 99 per cent using a combination of LEDs, power line communications and cloud-based management, claims the supplier.

The trial installation uses standard electrical cables to transport data to and from luminaires in order to control lux levels and collect information about energy usage at the facility.

The powerline communications trial has cut lighting-related energy costs by 99%, according the power line communications provider, enModus.

At the Virgin Media technical centre, data is carried in the twin-and-earth power lines, rather than over Ethernet cabling

Chepstow, Wales-based enModus replaced a number of fluorescent lights with LED luminaires and tied them into enModus’ Wattwave control system which delivers commands from a central hub to the lights, each of which is outfitted with an enModus node.

The hub also connects via the Internet to a cloud computing system based on Microsoft Azure, which helps to analyze lighting use and which sends back adjustments to the controls.

In addition to lighting information, the lights deliver occupancy information — picked up from embedded PIR sensors — which the cloud system examines to help facility operators make better use of their space.

Virgin switched on the new system last July in a small retrofit which could lead to a complete retrofit of the facility and others in the Virgin estate. The job was led by electrical contractor Richardson Electrical of Leeds.

Unlike another cabled form of smart lighting, Power over Ethernet (PoE), power line communications makes use of the existing electrical wiring that supplies the lights.

PoE runs both data and electricity over the Ethernet cables that are traditionally associated with data. The common wisdom is that PoE makes more financial sense in new builds, which by definition call for new wiring of some sort, than it does in retrofits.

Companies which deploy our solution don’t need expensive refits as it uses existing cabling infrastructure,’ says enModus chief Andy Heaton

Both power line communications and PoE technology can also deliver data to devices other than lights, providing rounded Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity.

They are both competing with a variety of wireless approaches, such as Bluetooth Mesh.

‘As well as saving money and reducing carbon dioxide, companies can deploy our solution without the need for expensive refits as it uses existing cabling infrastructure,’ enModus chief Andy Heaton told Lux. ‘Smart lighting is just one application. Once installed, we enable a building-wide communications network that can deliver other benefits including detailed intelligence on building occupancy and ultimately control over other electrically-connected assets and electrical circuits.’

Virgin is a £3.54 billion ($4.92 billion) broadband, cable, and telephony provider with six million cable customers who receive a mix of broadband, TV, and landline phone services. It also has 3.1 million mobile phone customers.

EnModus would not reveal the exact location of the technical facility with the PLC system but said it supports about 250,000 homes.

The company said the large reductions in energy were because ‘before the installation of enModus’ smart light solution, the existing fluorescent lighting was turned on at the beginning of each shift even though these spaces were only infrequently used by maintenance staff.’ With the new system, ‘the Hub sends control commands, and in return, the nodes communicate measured and sensed information in real time to create highly accurate real-time energy measurement and allow light activation only when occupancy is detected,’ enModus added.

EnModus has also provided its technology for pilot installations to UK and Spanish shopping mall owner Intu.


  • Power line communication and Power over Ethernet are two of the topics to be covered in a special session at the new Property Technology conference taking place alongside the LuxLive 2018 exhibition at ExCeL London on Wednesday 14 November and Thursday 15 November 2018. For more information on the conference programme at LuxLive, click HERE.


  • MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine
  • Main pic courtesy Virgin Media. Side bar pic by Atomic Taco Photography 2017