Is the Internet of Things (IoT) for me?
What is the IoT/IoA?
The Internet of Things (AKA the Internet of All) is the theoretical connecting of all “Things” – in the same way as you got a digital clock (and a few years later a calculator!) in every pen, ruler, key fob or advertising handout etc that you got in the 1980’s, you can now theoretically connect anything to the internet, either hard wired or wirelessly.
As in the 80’s you didn’t always need to know the time whenever you wrote to somebody or drew a line – you just could. Today you may not always need to connect them to the internet either, you just can.
Why ‘connect’ my device or system?
There are many potential benefits:
- Sharing information from one device to another, so you know how or where ‘it’ or ‘its user’ is.
- Controlling devices remotely – perhaps by Smartphone (i.e. Brands such as the Hive or Nest for home heating).
- Linking systems across networks for mutual benefit (i.e. Smartphones for earthquake monitoring).
- Linking streetlights to allow monitoring for maintenance planning and to facilitate control.
Yes, really. You can. Your job is to decide if you should?
Again, there are many clever ways to share information, but we all know that most of us don’t need to turn our heating on or off when we are not at home, or change the temperature, unless we are only home at odd times (perhaps it would suit a holiday home?) – as the time clock and thermostat are already quite capable of balancing energy saving with comfort.
Should you ‘connect’ your lighting?
Work out what you need from your lighting? Whether local independent controls or system control.
- Interior office lighting - Energy saving using daylight linking and presence control, along with simplistic switches for user preferences and absence control gives us pretty much everything we need without connecting. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).
- Outdoor lighting art Installations – If the interaction of people using the space, allowing remote influence or control, or linking different pedestrian zones is something desired, then local wireless and IoT connections would be worthwhile.
- Retail and museum display installations – Locational information via presence sensing, GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or other systems could be linked to find users, monitor and influence their behaviour. These are key applications that may need to be connected.
Enormous potential benefits to lighting applications
What may I not have thought of?
To quote Nanny McPhee, a fictional but wise character – I wonder, was the ‘I’ she spoke about the IoT or Power over Ethernet (PoE)?
“There is something you should understand about the way I work. When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go.”
So, use it if you need it.
Unused functions, updates, ongoing rental costs, shared responsibilities and obligations for safety, through life security, support availability and maintenance complexity are all worries that should be considered when thinking about the unintended potential legacy issues and wonders that connectivity may bring.
The IoT is a vast subject with a lot of enormous potential benefits to lighting applications, but make sure the bits you want to use are practical, can be sensibly managed and properly maintained through life.
To help users, specifiers, installers and manufacturers understand the technology and make more informed decisions for their application the Lighting Industry Association (LIA) have just published a thought provoking interim guide with a useful glossary.