How connected lighting can make the built environment more efficient – and livable

If you haven't kept up with advances in building management technologies and the capabilities of lighting networks as communications systems, the article below from Council Associate Partner Eaton will help bring you up to date. And there's a key takeaway for city leaders: It's not too much to expect that new apps developed from the integration of connected lighting with the built environment could provide smart cities with a number of benefits, including increased comfort and convenience for occupants, greater energy efficiency and fewer power outages. — Doug Peeples


When it first launched in 2008, the Apple App Store included a paltry 500 apps including Facebook, Yelp, eBay, Travelocity and Super Monkey Ball. Today, more than two million apps are available, and thousands more pop into cyberspace every month. Apps have revolutionized nearly everything – the way people communicate, play, date, travel, park and more.

As far-reaching as apps have become, a new development in the lighting industry – connected lighting – could be opening the door for apps to further revamp how people interact with the built environment.

Connected lighting refers to lighting fixtures that contain embedded technology, often a sensor, that detects system and environmental details. Wireless radios installed in the sensors and other wireless lighting system components (wall stations, controlled receptacles, tile-mounted sensors, etc.) create a wireless mesh network over which the entire lighting system communicates. The sensors also share the collected data over the network in real time, which can then be used by system software and apps to offer important insights about how the building is used, improve the efficiency of the lighting system, or assist the people in the space.

Here are three ways connected lighting offers a truly unique connectivity solution in the built environment:

  1. The wireless network infrastructure created by the connected lighting fixtures and other lighting control components in the system is pervasive, installed throughout the interior and exterior space with a grid-like uniformity.
  2. The sensors are also constantly powered, so even if a light is turned off, the fixture is connected, and the sensor is operational.
  3. Connected lighting delivers connectivity in the footprint of an object – the lighting fixture – that are already present or will be installed in cities.

With the platform for capturing and sharing building-wide data in place, new apps can be designed to use this information to dramatically improve the use of building resources and the occupant experience. In fact, developers have already created several apps to use the data from a connected lighting system, such as:

  • Some apps use the greater level of constant environmental detail to optimize the efficiency and performance of city systems. 
  • Others provide information and insights that improve the way people live. These apps use occupancy data to highlight congested areas or harness Bluetooth beacon signals so employees can easily locate in-demand equipment, allowing them to reallocate search times to other, more productive activities.

It may be difficult to imagine how this data could be used to make cities more energy efficient or reduce power outages. But in only a few years, apps have shortened speed-dating to a swipe, put entire music and entertainment libraries at our fingertips, and streamlined almost every daily process from commuting and fact-finding to casual conversations. As connected lighting ushers in the next evolution of apps, the potential advantages to the built space and the people who occupy them could be nothing short of revolutionary.