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The value of lighting beyond illumination for the Smart City

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Going digital is the aspiration du jour for companies of all sizes in Singapore. However, to anchor ourselves as the smart nation of the region, we need to ensure our public infrastructure is as connected as the technologies we use in our daily lives.

In our quest for a nationwide digital onboarding, we need to cast a spotlight on an overlooked physical infrastructure already in place that could put us on the high speed road to a well-lit, sustainable future.

Lighting is everywhere, in public spaces, offices and homes. Urbanization increase the demand for light. In developing transformative urban solutions for a connected city of opportunity, connected lighting is the most accessible starting point for our digitalization journey.

Digitalisation does not always have to require significant capital outlay or an overhaul of existing infrastructure. There are existing turnkey solutions in the market where current infrastructure can be retrofitted with newer technologies.

Case in point: Connected lighting is a future-proof ‘plug-and-play’ platform for data collection and urban sensing, managed through smart controls in the Internet of Things (IoT).

A logical platform for the smart city

A smart city’s systems need to be open. Smart city systems need to be connected. The ability to integrate with existing infrastructures using standardized interfaces presents the opportunity for a city to deploy new applications quickly as technologies evolve, allowing cities and their citizens to pursue new possibilities in the future.

Connected lighting meets all these requirements and is well positioned to serve as the backbone of the smart city.

The opportunity of LED

With an estimated number of 59.2 billion light points available by 2030, the opportunity of an intelligent lighting system as a pathway to connect industries to the digital ecosystem is phenomenal.

Connected LED is a ‘future-proof’ platform. In the United States, 4G LTE wireless telecommunications technology is already being merged with energy-saving LED street lighting in Los Angeles to provide an architecture that can help residents improve cell service – with the scalability for further integration with new technology in future.. Connected lighting has the potential to transform each of the estimated 300 million street lights worldwide[1] from being an output point for light to becoming an input point for information. These light poles can then start to provide input on traffic flow, air quality, crowds and security risks, energy consumption, waste, transport and other critical functions.

The true added value in bringing light points into the IoT is that connected LED is an ideal platform for urban sensing. Digital LED uses embedded electronics that can easily host sensing and actuator functions or couple with pre-existing sensor systems that communicate with a city’s IT software.

In the retail sector, the LED opportunity is tremendous. 97 per cent of the world’s citizens have a mobile phone subscription and 47 per cent have access to mobile data. The pairing of LED lighting with indoor positioning technology and the IoT is reimagining the consumer shopping experience. Using connected LED, a hyper-accurate, wall-to-wall indoor positioning solution can be deployed to enable retailers to provide personalized location-based services via their store app. LED lighting fixtures in stores can be embedded with sensors that can identify users’ smartphones across the shopping floor to deliver services, such as digital store mapping, way finding, and location-based information delivery.

In the logistics industry, LED luminaires with integrated sensors are used in daylight harvesting and presence detection. Work zones are fully lit when there is activity, and dim when there is no movement to lessen operational cost.

In the office environment, using Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) switches to connect lighting fixtures to the building’s IT network can allow facility managers to capture data on room occupancy to precisely deliver lighting, heating, cooling and cleaning resources with maximum energy efficiency. Light levels, heating, cooling and cleaning are reduced in low-occupancy areas to save time, money and energy.

In short, connected LED has the capability to bring industries to their next phases of growth, enabling them to address current and future challenges with greater ease.

Lighting up the path to a sustainable future

The recent proposal to introduce a carbon tax in Singapore signals a national priority shift towards energy sustainability and combating climate change.

Sustainable lighting reduces the environmental impact of individual products, as well as systems and services. Because of the lower energy usage and longer lifespan of LED lighting, energy efficiency is the low hanging fruit in the battle against climate change.

Currently, lighting represents 15 per cent of the world’s electricity consumption. A global transition to LED technology will bring an energy savings of 53 per cent by 2030. However, the opportunity for savings is actually much greater: by connecting LED light points wirelessly and managing them through the use of smart controls – positioning connected LED within the IoT – energy consumption for lighting can be reduced by as much as 80 per cent.

The demand for lighting will grow dramatically in the years ahead. Our global population, currently 7 billion, is projected to reach 8 billion by 2025 – 9.7 billion by 2050. Meanwhile, the realities of resource constraints and global climate change demand an aggressive focus on reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions to levels that help roll back climbing global temperatures.

A global switch to LED and connected lighting will bring numerous economic and environmental benefits.

While we have just begun to scratch the surface of how lighting can improve lives and create a better world, early applications are already proving connected lighting to be well positioned as the backbone of the smart, sustainable city. Through partnerships that realize powerful innovations in systems and services, organisations should continue to develop the value of light beyond illumination, helping cities to become smarter and each of us to reimagine our relationship with light.

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