Despite the building excitement around the Internet of Things, many organizations still don’t understand how the technology has any practical applications for their operations. However, they are beginning to see the light — literally.

IoT-connected lighting systems that harness the power of the Internet are producing a range of energy, cost and safety benefits for organizations in a variety of industries. This is why Navigant Research expects global market revenue for IoT lighting to grow from roughly $800 million in 2018 to $5.5 billion in 2026.

With sensors and communications chips embedded into lights and the lighting infrastructure, organizations can gather and act on data in a variety of ways. For instance, occupancy sensors that detect people’s presence can automatically switch lights on and off as needed. Light levels can also be automatically adjusted based on the availability of natural daylight.

IoT lighting systems can also become valuable data collection systems. Every connected light point can send and receive data to create smarter buildings that drive new business efficiencies and value. For example, lighting systems linked to cloud-based analytics can provide valuable information about occupancy patterns. Knowing how and when workspaces are being used can provide valuable insight into workplace design.

IoT lighting also has tremendous potential for energy and cost savings, particularly when paired with energy-efficient LED lights. LEDs typically convert 50 percent of energy into light. Incandescent lights, meanwhile, convert only 4 percent — which means that 96 percent of your electricity is used just to heat the bulb. That results in higher energy costs, shorter bulb life due to heat degradation and higher HVAC costs to keep your facilities cool.

With LED lights, an IoT communication chip can be directly integrated into the LED bulb or driver and accessed via an API. This would allow organizations to set lighting schedules and easily change lighting colors or intensity. It would also allow individual users to personalize lighting from a smartphone or tablet app.

The data collection possibilities extend beyond the actual illumination of space. In retail settings, for example, LED fixtures with sensors can communicate with shoppers’ smartphones. Data about shoppers’ location, traffic patterns and dwell time can be used optimize how products are presented. Connected lights could also be used to scan shelves for real-time inventory management.

In an emergency situation requiring an evacuation, sensor-embedded lights can guide occupants to safety. Lights can be remotely turned on or dimmed as needed to assist emergency responders. Flashing or colored lights might be used to warn of a fire, intruder or other dangers.

IoT lighting solutions aren’t limited to indoor applications. Cities around the world are deploying connected LED luminaires to enable smarter public lighting. By centrally controlling an intelligent network of outdoor LEDs, governments and their partners can dynamically adjust lighting to respond to changing conditions, improve public safety and dramatically lower power consumption and operating costs.

The market for IoT lighting solutions should expand rapidly with the recent development of a universal specification to ensure all components will work together. The IoT-Ready Alliance released the IoT-Ready Interface Specification V1.0 in May. It defines a socket that allows any type of IoT sensor or control module to connect seamlessly to a luminaire or other building system.

IoT lighting solutions offer exciting possibilities for offices, manufacturing plants, schools, healthcare facilities and more. However, a successful implementation will require significant upfront planning. IPC has built an IoT practice to enable our customers to take advantage of these opportunities. Give us a call and let us enlighten you.