How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb? None, if the Internet of Things has anything to say about it. Lighting manufacturers are jumping on board with smart home, smart office, and smart factories. Take a look at the companies – from giants like General Electric to smart startups – that are giving Edison’s incandescent invention a whole new list of commercial benefits, and find out why smart lighting is so popular

IoT Lighting – from smart home to smart factory

Lighting was one of the first home products to go smart. Today smart lighting systems are ubiquitous in smart home systems, both indoors and out, with companies taking it as a given that their new offerings will hook up to Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant or another popular voice-control device.

Even Ikea, traditionally a furniture and home furnishings store, is taking its turn with a new range of lighting products built around the ZigBee Light Link. The innovative feature, a motion-controlled dimmer switch, offers a new kinetic user experience by letting users dim the lights by rolling the dimmer around in their hand. The system doesn’t run cheap, and there’s plenty of room to compete by lowering pricing – perhaps through cutting down on hardware costs and improving the development process.

The value of smart lighting stretches beyond homes. Health and safety remains a primary concern in the industrial sector, and smart lighting that takes safety standards into consideration can improve compliance with safety standards. Better lighting in mines, windowless factory floors and other dark environments can improve conditions for workers, raising moods and increasing productivity.

Smart lighting in factories | Seebo Blog

Smart Lighting takes to the stage, stadium and stores

The Industrial sector offers greater lucrative potential, and is still expanding. Zumtobel Group recently announced it will partner with London soccer club Tottenham Hotspur to illuminate parts of the complex with smart LED lights. Multiple brands under the group will each contribute a different ‘expertise’. Supposedly, this means each company provides a limited number of smart features with their lighting.

Conventions and concerts can offer smart lighting for shows and events. One creative company combines LED lights with light-transmitting carpets that display messages or directions, add a new layer of marketing messaging, and dramatically increase user interaction with their space.

Smart lighting integrated with light-transmitting carpets
Increase traffic, get analytics on traffic flow and help people find their way around expos and stores with smart lighting.

Retail is another powerful venue for smart lighting. Like conventions, stores and malls are filled with aisles, and retailers want to measure customer traffic to different sections. Sensors that measure flow rates can identify which aisles are scoring high, and which remain empty. Using that data-driven insight, retailers alter marketing tactics, display locations, and product placement to take advantage of popular aisles and improve traffic to slow sections of the store.

Even the agricultural sector sees advantages in smart lighting. Greengage, which markets lighting solutions for precision farming, recently developed a smart lighting solution to help farmers manage operations and monitor animal welfare remotely.

Why Smart Lighting systems are a safe bet for lighting manufacturers

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 7% of U.S. electricity consumption comes from lighting. More specifically, lighting accounts for 10% of both U.S. home energy consumption and nearly 11% of commercial electricity consumption. Smart lighting systems that conserve energy would prove a boon both to homeowners eager to lower electricity bills and to state officials looking to reduce the national dependency on coal and oil.

Reducing electricity consumption and bills aren’t the only benefits that smart lighting supplies. Companies like Terralux market lighting networks that sense chemicals in the environment and can trigger alarms or send alerts in case of an emergency.

Smart lighting features | Seebo Blog - IoT Insights
Sample features for a smart lightbulb. Source: Seebo

Users and offices could set lights according to their schedule – not just ‘on-off’, but the intensity of light as well. And with smart home integration, lights can be triggered by a web or mobile app, or by the actions of another device in the system.

Still wondering if smart lighting is a worthwhile investment for your product innovation? Take a look at how successful the last technological leap in lighting was: LEDS. “The rapid adoption of LEDs in lighting marks one of the fastest technology shifts in human history”, said a Goldman Sachs report.  From 2009 to 2014, The U.S. leaped from a few hundred thousand LEDs installed, to 78 million.

The conclusion? Give businesses, homeowners and the public sector a way to reduce electricity consumption, and they will grab it.

Lighting technology is seen as the number one way to reduce energy costs, more than hybrid vehicles, solar PV and Wind technologies together.

It’s clear that lighting companies who want to remain cutting-edge and innovative are turning to smart lighting. So what’s the catch?

Smart lighting challenges

Like nearly all smart home products, smart lighting systems rely on integration with popular smart speakers like Google Home and Alexa. This, in turn, requires an entirely new set of rules and specifications for the product and application. It’s not enough to have a light dim or blaze based on sunlight, you also need to make the light turn on and off based on a command from another unit (the smart speaker) which isn’t even yours. There are ways to simplify the integration, though. As time goes on and smart lighting becomes the norm, these integration solutions will become commonplace.