Networked Lighting Innovations from Cree, Philips, Signal a Shift in the Value of Control

Feb. 28, 2014
The smart thing about Cree's new system is that it removes the configuration and maintenance headaches that come with setting up a new lighting control system.

Some of the most promising changes being driven by the shift to LED lighting are coming from the expanded opportunities for control. In terms of color, daylight responsiveness and other parameters, LED lighting can be controlled in ways legacy lighting technologies could not. By itself this is huge, but beyond the lighting itself, the communication technologies being designed into new LED systems make it possible to control other devices and systems in what’s typically called the “Internet of things,” and even to develop entirely new services and capabilities. Some interesting examples of new thinking in lighting-system based controls came our way over the past couple of weeks with announcements from Philips Lighting and Cree.

Philips Lighting made some waves last week with the introduction of a system for retail stores that uses a smart-phone app communicating with intelligent lighting systems to direct shoppers to the products they want to buy.

Philips added to the buzz this week with a roadway lighting product line developed in partnership with telecom manufacturer Ericsson that integrates small cellular hubs at every light pole. Coverage on the website FierceWirelessTech pointed out the synergies captured in such a partnership, where Philips’ work with cities to upgrade their lighting could expand to include radio base stations to provide cities with additional mobile broadband capacity.

It’s already been a year since Philips made a spash in the consumer market with its wireless Hue system of LED lighting and controls that can use residential lighting to convey information and set color-enhanced moods, a system cited recently in a feature naming Philips among the “Most Innovative Companies in 2014” by FastCompany.

On the control end, Cree this week announced a new wireless lighting control system for the commercial market. Cree says its new SmartCast Technology offering is “the first self-programming wireless lighting control system that reduces energy consumption by more than 70% (compared with conventional fluorescents without the technology) at half the cost of traditional lighting controls.”

The smart thing about this system is that it removes the configuration and maintenance headaches that come with setting up a new lighting control system. With the touch of a single button, the lighting system’s luminaires create their own secure network, detect features of their environment and group themselves into control zones.

In a recent conversation with a Cree sales rep we learned that the company has committed to an aggressive product development schedule, with internal mandates to introduce at least two major new products every month during 2014.

With innovative uses of lighting controls and lighting systems as data networks launching with what seems increasing frequency, one can only wonder where this will go next … and how well players in the traditional electrical products supply chain will do at capturing what looks like an explosion of opportunity.