How luminaires with sensors can monitor our world

Sponsored by TE Connectivity

The exciting possibilities being created by digital LED lighting are outlined by Jonathan Catchpole of TE Connectivity.

LED-based lighting will represent 65 per cent of the total indoor luminaire market worldwide in 2022, less than four years from now, according to Strategies Unlimited at this spring’s Strategies in Light conference. (To read the report click here.)

This critical mass point opens up a realm of possibilities and opportunities for LED luminaire engineers. Luminaires can now integrate a great deal more intelligence by using sensors to collect data and monitor not only its own system and operation, but also the spaces which the lights are illuminating.

The luminaires can also integrate wireless units next to these sensor modules. These can feed all the data to the cloud, allowing asset and facility managers, both algorithmic and human, to access it and take action based on the information.

The huge change to LEDs in lighting fixtures is giving luminaire engineering teams exciting new opportunities. Now, they start from the concept phase, knowing they can count on little additional heat from the light source’s operation.

Temperature and humidity sensing – once only possible in separate thermostats relatively far from lighting fixtures – and passive infrared (PIR) sensors – once the domain of a separate security system – can now be easily integrated into luminaires.

Equally, light sensors for controlling the output of a fixture no longer need to be in a separate wall- or ceiling- mounted switch plate. PIR sensors so commonly seen in lighting wall switch plates can instead be housed in the luminaire. Integrations like these promise very significant cost savings in terms of building infrastructure installation and maintenance.

Suppliers to the luminaire industry have developed modules that combine these four sensors, with the capability to add VOC and eCO2 detection and a microphone to monitor sound levels. Luminaire engineers are showing a preference for these multi-sensor modules because, when they are engineered with a single I2C output that combines all the sensor data, it’s easy to integrate them in a wider system and connect to a wireless Zigbee or Bluetooth network.   

Zhaga, the lighting engineering standards consortium, is also working on the standardisation of the mechanical and electrical interfaces for connecting these sensor modules to luminaires.

Jonathan Catchpole is system architect for TE Connectivity.