LED lighting offers many advantages over conventional lamps and fixtures. Its energy efficiency is superior, which provides monthly power bill savings. LED lighting saves even more energy in air-conditioned spaces, since it reduces the cooling load, thanks to its low heat footprint. Additionally, LED products have a much longer service life than incandescent, fluorescent and HID lamps, reducing the frequency of lamp replacements and saving their associated cost. However, the potential of LED products as communication tools had not been explored in the lighting industry until recent years; LED innovation has focused on reducing price and increasing energy efficiency, but this approach does not unlock the full potential of the technology.
Unlike older lighting sources, which use incandescent filaments or gas ignition to produce light, LED lighting is based on solid-state electronics. Therefore, an LED product has more similarities with electronic gadgets than with older types of lamps. Since lighting typically provides full coverage of indoor spaces, LED products can become powerful communication tools if they are equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities.
Normally, the IT infrastructure and lighting system of a building are separate installations. However, Wi-Fi LED fixtures can be used to merge these two systems. This can be a significant advantage in new buildings, minimizing the number of wireless access points required to provide optimal coverage.
The cost of electrical installations in new buildings can be further reduced by using LED lamps designed to run directly with AC power, such as those provided by the US Lighting Group. This eliminates the need to install ballasts and drivers, which can result in significant material and labor savings, especially in large facilities with thousands of fixtures.
The Internet of Things (IoT) consists of equipping all types of appliances with Internet connectivity, expanding its reach beyond computers and mobile devices and setting the state for a wide range of innovative services. Gartner Inc., a leading technology consulting firm, estimates that there will be 8.4 billion connected devices in the world by the end of 2017, reaching up to 20.4 billion by 2020.
However, the IoT will take conventional Wi-Fi infrastructure to its limit, due to the sheer number of connected devices. One potential solution is to increase the number of access points according to the wireless communication needs of a building, but a more cost-effective option is to upgrade the lighting system with Wi-Fi connectivity, taking advantage of the coverage already provided. Also, if Wi-Fi LED products are designed to use the same fixtures and lampholders as conventional lamps, it is possible to upgrade entire buildings at a minimal cost, in a short time and without disrupting activities.
Wi-Fi LED lighting can serve as the backbone for other building management systems, including smart thermostats, power meters, energy storage systems and ventilation controls. Of course, Wi-Fi connectivity can also be used to improve the efficiency of the lighting system itself. For example, occupancy sensors can be used to shut down the lighting output in empty building areas without interrupting Wi-Fi coverage for key building systems, or lighting schedules can be programmed for areas with predictable occupancy.
Wi-Fi LED lighting offers significant advantages over conventional lighting installations and IT infrastructure, reducing their total cost by merging both systems. Retrofitting the lighting system of a building with Wi-Fi LED lamps can also be an attractive investment, since it provides significant energy savings while providing the backbone for IoT applications and smart building systems.
As US Lighting Group continues with development of its Wi-Fi capable light, we will be paying close attention to the evolution of this field and, as always, respond accordingly.