In the not-so-distant future, many of the ordinary objects and appliances we use every day may find themselves connected to the Internet in some capacity — automating our lives, and ideally eliminating some of our more mundane activities. It’s called the Internet of Things (IoT) — and while it may be a bit scary, some of its applications have the potential to change the world.
Smart lighting is a good example. Recent studies suggest that so-called “lighting as a service” (LaaS) providers will be able to cut light-related energy usage by as much as 90 percent (!) using a more efficient approach to lighting our homes and offices.
How is this possible? Let’s take a look!
What Is Smart Lighting?
Lighting is a huge part of modern life, and we use it for all kinds of things in just about every context you can think of. The cost of powering all those lights really adds up, though. Lighting accounts for as much as one quarter of the world’s total electricity use.
Smart lighting is designed to decrease power costs by combining high-efficiency fixtures with automated controls that make adjustments based on various factors, such as occupancy and sunlight availability. The premise here is simple: why keep the lights on in a room that’s empty or already sufficiently lit by the sun?
Smart lighting systems use motion sensors to detect when people enter or leave a particular area, dimming or shutting off the lights when no one is around. A 2009 study concluded that automatic lighting systems with occupancy sensors can reduce energy consumption by as much as 30 percent over conventional systems, even when the automatic system’s lighting power density is 50 percent higher than that of the conventional system.
Some smart lighting systems also use sunlight detection technology, which helps to cut down on unnecessary power usage by dimming or turning off the lights when there’s plenty of sunlight to light the room. However, while this approach does increase efficiency, it can be a bit problematic in practice. Unstable weather can cause the lights to turn on and off rapidly, which can disturb people in the room and decrease lamp life.
So, for now, it seems motion sensors are the way to go.
How Much Money Can Lighting As A Service Save?
The systems that industry experts believe will pave the way for serious energy savings will also include analytics and intelligence. With cloud-based analytics, LaaS providers will be able to provide custom-tailored lighting programs to reduce expenses and minimize wasted energy by making smart lighting systems more intelligent and predictive.
“Smart solid-state lighting in office buildings and industrial installations has the potential to reduce energy costs by 90 percent,” said Dean Freeman, research VP at Gartner. “However, achieving these costs takes more than just installing light-emitting diode (LED) lighting.”
Globally, the number of smart lighting units installed in offices and industrial sites is expected to grow from 46 million in 2015 to 2.54 billion in 2020. By the end of this year, commercial smart lighting systems are expected to serve 600 million to one billion square feet.
LaaS programs are also well on their way to changing the world. Last November, Phillips signed a 10-year lighting contract with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to provide lighting as a service in 25 Washington parking garages. As part of the deal, Phillips provided WMATA with upgrades to over 13,000 lighting fixtures at no upfront cost whatsoever — and the ongoing project is being funded by the estimated $2 million per year in energy and maintenance savings. Specifically, energy usage is expected to be cut by 68 percent.
Phillips is going all-in with the LaaS model, which could be massively disruptive to the industry. While the details of the WMATA deal haven’t been officially disclosed, it’s been said that WMATA is paying Phillips a percentage of its actual energy savings — a payment model we’ve never seen in this space before. But it makes sense: Phillips has an incentive to maximize energy savings, and WMATA is paying for results.
With this new approach to office and industrial lighting, LaaS providers have the potential to save billions of dollars in energy costs annually — what we’ve seen so far is just the beginning.
What do you think about smart lighting and “lighting as a service” programs? Do you use any smart lighting tech in your home or office? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Image Credits: Light bulb via Shutterstock