A recap of LIGHTFAIR® 2017
by Kevin Boyce, Director of Product Management at Universal Lighting Technologies
At this year’s edition of LIGHTFAIR® International (LFI®)—the lighting industry’s largest annual architectural and commercial trade show—we saw the latest in lighting design, innovation and achievements, from decorative and task lights to ballasts and LED drivers.
In the past, LIGHTFAIR had been a place for our traditionally component-based industry to display its wide range of products. This year’s show, however, took on a different form, as thousands of attendees paid special attention to the incredible potential of lighting controls as part of the Internet of Things (IoT). As of 2017, the major question in our industry is not whether human-centric lighting technology will continue to transform commercial spaces, but how can architects, engineers and contractors take advantage of those changes in order to make lighting more relevant?
Our top takeaways from the show begin to answer that question:
It’s a wireless world. Almost every major lighting company at LIGHTFAIR was highlighting some type of wireless controls technology. When you hear the word ‘wireless,’ it’s easy to think about the concept, rather than about a specific technology that must be integrated into all aspects of your lighting controls strategy. Wi-Fi allows for a high data transfer rate and typically supports wireless devices with a large supply of power. Bluetooth and ZigBee technologies use considerably less power. With native smartphone compatibility, Bluetooth can easily be deployed for a single-room or scaled up to operate over an entire building. Operating off of a central controller, ZigBee offers an industry standard for device certification and scalability across the installation site.
With so many options to choose from, it will be important to understand the pros and cons of each wireless controls system before deciding on the appropriate application.
The potential for information data from integrated lighting systems is huge. In the future, it will be standard to have integrated lighting systems that will be able to communicate fixture status, perform daylight harvesting, capture occupancy data and provide real-time data about temperature, CO2 levels and more. Those capabilities will allow building owners and facilities managers to optimize spaces within their buildings to enhance occupant comfort and productivity. Even HVAC systems can be programmed to alter airflow to certain rooms based on data collected by integrated lighting systems.
Integrated lighting controls technology can create significant energy savings. Occupancy sensing triggers can do more than just control the lighting, they can inform the building owner or facility manager about building traffic over the course of the day, . With those controls as a bigger part of integrated lighting systems, the opportunity to reduce energy consumption in a building will perhaps be greater than ever. To continue with the example above, a space that’s only occupied for a few hours of each day can use lighting system data to influence variable zone control, and reduce both lighting and HVAC output in a given space.
Retail spaces will love data analysis from integrated lighting solutions. Visible Light Control (VLC) and Bluetooth beaconing will change the face of in-store shopping experiences. Integrated lighting fixtures equipped with either of these technologies can be used to configure indoor navigation systems for customers, and even send them store maps, coupons and other promotions. When a connected customer’s smartphone camera picks up a unique light pattern or a Bluetooth signal emitted from the fixture, the beacon will send content back to the shoppers’ smartphone, allowing them to take customer service to a whole new level.
‘Wired’ lighting won’t disappear tomorrow. LIGHTFAIR 2017 definitively showed a bright future for a wireless lighting and controls world. However, the fact remains that any wireless solution will still involve wired components. For example, a sensor must be wired to a driver in order to communicate and receive adequate power. Of course, wires are needed to get power to the driver. It is the wireless communication between the sensors, wall switches and mobile devices that makes the solution wireless.