Known by the shorthand, IoT, the Internet of Things allows for different devices to use cloud computing technology to control other devices including heating, ovens, lighting, and so on from a single account. This account can be accessed from a computer on site, but also from smartphones and tablet devices. By combining the two, it is possible for there to be smarter home, business, and municipality lighting. Here are 6 ways the two technologies are developing together.

1. More Efficient Home Lighting Systems

The IoT’s core appeal to people is the ability to remote control all electrical aspects of a home or business. This can allow someone to turn on the heating and preheat the oven on their way home or pre-program lighting around the house or security lighting depending on the time of day or weather. Furthermore, smart lights are being developed which can replicate the light given off by incandescent and fluorescent bulbs while being LEDs. These even look like the originals, but save money with LED efficiency. Keying LED smart lights into the Internet of Things allows greater flexibility for homeowners whether at home or far away.

2. IoT and Efficient Business Lighting

The combination of IoT and LEDs as laid out above for homes, also work for businesses, whether part of an office block containing multiple companies or for a single business working on a whole site. Having a centrally controlled flexible smart lighting system would allow lights to be scheduled, controlled, and adjusted throughout the building. As more and more office buildings are moving to LED Panels and GU10 LEDs to light their cubicles, it only makes sense to incorporate advanced lighting control to further cut down on lighting costs.The main advantages of this are cost savings and efficient application of lighting resources. Overheads are further reduced by scheduling for lights to be turned off at appropriate times. Security settings can be factored into the IoT technology to allow random lights to be turned on and off during the night, and to control external security lighting. Furthermore, it allows for light settings to be adjusted to bright or dimmer settings depending on the function of the room/area in general and allows this to be changed with ease for a short or longer time depending on changes in activities.

3. Smart Street Lighting

In a previous article we looked at the pros and cons of LED-based street lighting including how, if applied intelligently, they can improve visibility while reducing costs for local authorities. More recently, White Bear Lake which is a suburb of St. Paul in Minnesota, America, pioneered the first “white tunable connected street lighting,” which combined high quality LED light bulbs with an IoT technology developed by the Echelon Corporation.

The advantage of IoT driven LEDs in the realm of street lighting is control. This allows local authorities to change patterns of light usage in ways which is impossible now. Not only could each lamp be independent in itself in terms of sensors and even power sources if linked to solar panels, but could be linked together on a smart system. This system could regulate the amount of blue light emitted, whether the light needs a nice, soft yellowish light or whether due to high volume of traffic in the area or some kind of event, needs to be brightened with blue light.

4. The Democratisation of Public Lighting

A further advantage of this flexibility is in allowing different zones, neighbourhoods, and areas to have different lighting policies controlled from a central system. This means adjusting the lights at night to be wildlife friendly in parks, taking into consideration local residents’ wishes for lighting near their homes, and city centre street lights for busy shopping evenings. Lights can also be scheduled to change according to the time of night with them turning off entirely in the dead of the night or changing hue.

For example, it is possible to zone lighting using IoT by combining good lighting planning with consulting local residents, business owners, and drivers. As the pairing of controllers and lighting continue to become more popular, the importance of guides on how to take full advantage of these systems will be more important than ever.

High end lighting could be useful for:

-          Commercial areas with signage

-          High risk areas such as crossroads, roundabouts, and major junctions

-          Car parks and especially their exits

-          Busy areas in general

Low level lighting is more suitable for:

-          Historic areas of town

-          Residential neighbourhoods, suburbs, villages and so on

-          Parks and other more delicate areas

5. Health and Safety Improvements at Emergency Scenes

As noted above, the IoT allows tunable lighting to be adjusted for special events or on an area by area or light by light basis. However, where IoT’s flexibility comes to the fore the most is in unplanned, unwanted or unwarranted events which could happen at any time or any place within the local authority’s control. By this we mean car crashes, sites of accidents, fires, and other disasters which require an emergency response. The use of IoT controlled lighting means emergency services can work in conjunction with the local authority to adjust lighting levels in the vicinity of the incident. This would most likely include brightening lights to help emergency service personnel carry out their duties.

6. Revolutionise Lighting in Poorer Areas

Municipal lighting could see a further boost in quality, efficiency and affordability with a new technology being developed. Nanowires made of out perovskite are being utilized to improve the solar efficiency rating of solar panels and are being applied to the efficiency of LED lights as well. Already, solar efficiency has improved from 3.8% to 21% and is set to rise higher.

As solar power efficiency continues to increase, so does that of LED lighting products such as LED Strip Lights. In the near future, we may see the "net-zero" power bill, where the LED lights we have incorporated into our communities coupled with solar power cost virtually nothing to operate.

It is possible in the future that not only will solar panels increase in efficiency while simultaneously becoming cheaper to construct and buy, but they will combine with other nanowire products. The École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland are developing easy to grow nanowires which can be applied to all optoelectronic devices such as LEDs.

These more efficient and easier to use bulbs can be applied to computer screens, TVs, and both home and local lighting across the world. In conjunction with cheap, efficient solar panels, it might lead to poorer and remoter parts of the world setting up their own electricity systems and lighting off-grid. No doubt, if combined with IoT control from a single computer plugged into the system, a small authority or NGO could revolutionize such a place.

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