Future Tech

How “Lighting As a Service” Could Cut Energy Use by 90%

Brad Merrill 26-08-2015

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 What Is the Internet of Things? What is the Internet of Things? Here's everything you need to know about it, why it's so exciting, and some of the risks. Read More (IoT) — and while it may be a bit scary 7 Reasons Why The Internet of Things Should Scare You The potential benefits of the Internet of Things grow bright, while the dangers are cast into the quiet shadows. It's time to draw attention to these dangers with seven terrifying promises of the IoT. Read More , some of its applications have the potential to change the world Top 10 Emerging Technologies That Are Changing The World From agriculture to medicine to energy, advancements are being made every day. Learn a little bit about these 10 emerging technologies that could directly affect your life within the next few years. Read More .


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?


light savings

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


Related topics: Energy Conservation, Green Technology.

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  1. Anonymous
    August 27, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    As long as this isn't made mandatory - it just won't work in all circumstances. I live in an old cottage and at times I can sit in a room reading when it's almost dark (particularly, of course, given that I'm mostly reading on a Kindle); at other times there can be sunlight streaming into a room but, if I'm doing something in one or two particular areas of that room, I need artificial light because the sunlight just doesn't reach there. There's also the subtlety of what one is actually doing: if I'm washing up in the kitchen I nearly always need artificial light; if I'm preparing food in that same kitchen I don't always need artificial light (and prefer not to have it if possible, given that I've usually been staring at a computer screen for several hours beforehand). I might not be using any artifical light in a room, but then someone else will come into that room and comment on how dark it is and, if they are staying to do something then they will want to put on a light.

    Lighting is a highly complex element in our lives, and its importance shouldn't be underestimated. Light is not just for seeing, it's for comfort and a feeling of security, a mood enhancer or destroyer; sometimes we need to see every fine detail, at others we want to see as little as possible.

    One of the reasons 'eco' lighting has not been taken up with assiduity and why many people are still buying incandescent bulbs is that most eco lighting is both too harsh and often too weak for fine work; it can also be a great mood interrupter.

    This is a case where people need to take responsibility, and not rely on technology alone to solve the problem.

    • Brad Merrill
      August 31, 2015 at 5:54 pm

      Interesting points. You're definitely right that lighting is complex and serves more purposes than seeing alone. Always appreciate your input, Maryon!

      • Anonymous
        August 31, 2015 at 11:09 pm

        Thank you, Brad and Mihir - you made my day! One of the reasons I love MUO is not only the articles themselves, from which I've learnt masses, but also the (OK, mainly...) excellent comments and feedback which reassures me that there are still courteous, constructive and reasoned beings out there.

        • Mihir Patkar
          September 1, 2015 at 6:48 am

          Right back at you :)

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 31, 2015 at 6:48 pm

      What a wonderful, insightful comment, Maryon! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Anonymous
    August 27, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    I am already doing this, and have been for several years. I have been using X10 automation for nearly 20 years for simple things like being able to turn a light on or off remotely. One thing I have used it for is a motion detector in an inside bathroom with no natural light. The motion detector turns on the light when someone enters, then, after a few minutes if no motion is detected, turns it off. (have you ever seen a kid turn the bathroom light off?) 3 years ago I got the X10 active home controller. I have it set to all lights, except that bathroom light, off at 30 minutes after local sunrise ( it even knows when local sunrise & set happen) then, a security light on at a few minutes before local sunset. All lights still work normally using the wall switches as well. There is a lot more to it, but along with switching to LED lighting I have seen a reduction in electricity cost. One biggie for me is I have a controller that doubles as a clock beside my bed with an all lights off button for when I forget to turn the kitchen light off when I get into bed.

    • Brad Merrill
      August 31, 2015 at 5:56 pm

      Sounds like a great setup - thanks for sharing, Ben!

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 31, 2015 at 6:51 pm

      Ben, would you mind sharing a few more details? It'd be awesome if you could dig out the before and after costs. I feel this is one of those cases where your system could be made tangibly beneficial if you shared exact details.