As the lighting manufacturing industry completes its transition into the electronics industry, a new, flatter hierarchy begins to take shape. What better time to reinforce lighting’s position at the forefront of the digital revolution in architecture and integrate data collection and communication components with lighting components? Lighting designers are already seeing the impacts and must evolve along with the technology and its exciting potential.
Connected lighting can be defined as networked luminaries that have the ability to send and receive data and commands. Because electric lighting systems require power and distribute luminaries just about everywhere data communication is desirable, lighting systems are the ideal backbone for data communication technology.
Arguably, the communication technologies – LiFi, PoE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, BLE and the myriad of mesh networks – are the easy part. Compatibility, standardization, ownership, procurement models, and policy surrounding data are far more difficult to navigate. (Not to be confused with wireless control of luminaire intensity and color, which is very similar to traditional lighting control minus the “wires” that may or may not be connected to a network or the IoT.)
Connected lighting components are becoming integrated within LED drivers. Therefore, the specification, management and warranty of these components could be assumed to be part of the lighting designers’ scope of work. This is a departure from traditional interdisciplinary coordination; such as smart or multipurpose poles that include security cameras, event power outlets, and public-address speakers etc., which can be carefully referred to the respective security, electrical, or audiovisual consultant.
Or, are these components and the associated design wholly outside the lighting designer’s area of expertise? Lighting designers are certainly not qualified to consult on data collection management, ownership, procurement models, and policy surrounding the data that these components collect.
Enter the digital consultant. Stemming from IT, digital consultants or technology design and consulting broadly encompass the field of “digital advisory,” its associated technical architecture and operational readiness. Digital consultants may also offer a suite of specialist services including digital master planning, technology owner’s representative, systems integration, operations models, intelligent building consulting, etc.
As per the wide range of design skills and knowledge required of the lighting designer, the reality is that digital usually lies between inside and outside of our scope of work. The key is knowing enough to inform clients of the available options while determining when and where the technology lies outside our qualifications or area of expertise. Connected lighting is also intrinsically complimentary to Lighting as a Service (LaaS), another development in the industry that lighting designers must take in hand. Public street lighting fixtures, for example, can be offered at no cost, or with service contract, in return for the right to collect and own the data collected by the system.
So fortunate to have inhouse digital consultants, Arup lighting designers have participated in smart city and intelligent building workflows. Within the Arup global lighting team, there has been significant skill diversification and up-skilling in recent years. Among other disciplines, we now have electronics engineers and programmers within the 130+ global lighting team. This has been an important part of our adaptation and digital transformation, enabling us to maintain our reputation in both design and technical excellence.
Design of intelligent lighting systems with innovative use cases, is, I believe, still in its infancy. In contrast to the rather staid history of lighting technology, the limitless opportunities that become available when luminaires are truly connected – exchanging data and commands and compiling intelligence – is beyond exciting!
Liberty MacDougall, an Arup lighting design colleague, advocates and implements experiential design. She sees that the role of the lighting designer has evolved with the rapid changes in lighting itself, and that the technology now available allows us to dynamically improve the occupant’s spatial experience. Duncan Jack, our Los Angeles digital leader, predicts a paradigm shift in how owners think of lighting systems and integration with other intelligent services like IT, AV, HVAC, life safety and security, etc.: technology is driving dramatic changes in how building designers collaborate with building operators.
Apart from the obvious benefits for operations/facility management and personalization, I see tremendous potential in healthcare outcomes. As digital identification becomes part of the IoT, wellbeing, aged care and shift workers can all benefit from connected lighting. And these are just a few of the limitless use cases.
It is not unreasonable to suggest that all clients in the future will be well informed about their IoT options and have a plan, plus a digital consultant or internal department to manage the process. Until then, lighting designers need to know the impact of connected lighting on their profession and how to manage the workflow and scope of work on their projects.