Part I: “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”
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It’s always fascinating to learn about the dynamics of a new market. I have had such an opportunity over the last few months understanding what makes the lighting market tick. Time and again I now find myself with a sore neck studying the array of sensors and light sources that pervade our everyday life at home, work and whilst travelling. It’s truly fascinating to reflect on the impact that the quality of light has on our existence.

The first thing one often considers is the efficiency of the light source. Indeed, the industry has pursued increased levels of efficiency to convert electricity to light since the invention of the first light bulb. The credit for which remains to this day a contentious issue over 130 years later!

The current state of the art are LED light sources, and they are winning out against other technologies in the indoor and outdoor spaces. The switch to LED and the falling cost of these devices is leading to much greater levels of energy efficiency and reduced time to payback their additional cost as prices fall.

This leads to a situation today where innovation is really driven by the lighting experience. Coming back to my earlier statements, this has such a significant impact on quality of life that the benefits are worth paying for.

The most basic form of lighting control is the wired manual switch. Here the intelligence to actuate lights comes from flesh in the loop. It is a highly analogue process where human judgement is applied to optimise the lighting conditions, often without consideration for the consumed energy.

A move to digital control disintermediates the human from the actuation. This is somewhat equivalent to the progression in vehicles towards “drive by wire” systems, where the human in the loop is more suggesting the desired stated of the vehicle and then electronics modulate that input to produce the perceived desired output.

We then look beyond this to a higher level of autonomy for lighting control where a simple sensor (e.g. occupancy) is switching the light source on or off. Think of this as automatic braking, to stretch the car analogy. Beyond this, multiple sensors are collaborating to understand the environment and anticipate our lighting needs thus make the lighting system truly autonomous. There are striking similarities between sensor fusion needs in vehicle systems and what is needed with a multi-sensor lighting control system.

I titled this article “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”, borrowed from the title of a Smiths song. In my opinion, this is the experience that we should strive towards. That the light our eyes receive is anticipating our needs and always fit for purpose, and is there when we need it without costing the earth in terms of resource consumption. The follow-on question is what can we do with this data that we collect in a multi-sensor environment? What business benefit can be derived from it?
You may ask what this has got to do with wireless connectivity or Wirepas in particular. To give some hints, all the above relies on scalable, robust connectivity. The next instalments will look at existing approaches to addressing the connectivity needs and explain what we are doing at Wirepas for smart lighting.

I will lay out the next piece of the puzzle in the next instalment. Stay tuned!