Smart lighting going wireless& LED prone: Pros and Cons

The latest trend in smart lighting is the introduction of novel wireless technology thus making them digital, networked, and intelligent. Another trend complementing this is the wider usage of LED bulbs/lamps in smart lighting as it has advantages like better energy efficiency, longer lifetime, fast response time, and small form factor. Analysing both these trends, it can be inferred that LED bulbs is majorly used in wireless smart lighting systems. The market share of wireless technology based on smart lighting market products in almost all the application of smart lighting will increase significantly in the next five years.

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LED bulbs are presently being embedded with chips making them smart. Presently companieslike Philips, Insteon and GreenWavehave developed smart bulbs using wireless technologies like ZigBee Light Link, JenNet-IP, and proprietary technology. Smart bulbs have been designed using wireless technology in such a way that they are network-controlled (with their own IP address). These can be controlled with a tablet or smartphone, even when the occupants of a room are not present. These could be set to run on schedules. For example, these bulbs can be automatically turned off when a person goes to sleep and then turned on slowly in the morning to wake the person up. These bulbs (with multi-color LEDs) could be set onmanycolors which can be used for mood lighting, parties, or even to helpin photography.

Thus incorporation of wireless technology in lighting control system will make it flexible, scalable, simpler, effective in energy management and recording on-going performance,whichwill definitely increase cost savings. Thus advent of wireless and LED technology has boosted the market of smart lighting. Smart lighting has become more sophisticated as well as technologically advanced because of these two technologies.

However, with every new technology there are few limitations too. The most prominent restraint is the incompatibility between different wireless technologies used in smart lighting. As there are no common/ open standards for these wireless smart lighting products, the entire notion of various smart lighting devices networked together and the network goes for a toss. Taking the example of smart bulbs, though all these devices connect with standard mesh network technology, none of them are compatible with one another. Philips employs ZigBee Light Link, GreenWave employs NXP JenNet-IP and Insteon uses its own wireless technology and all these are incompatible with each other.

As there are computer chips inside the smart bulb, small amount of power needs to keep on flowing at all times if it needs to remain smart. If the physical switch is used, it will turn on and off, but only to a default state and thus entire smart abilities of the device gets disrupted. GreenWave and Insteon both use simple remote controls for these purposes; however Philips makes use of a smartphone. Although it gives a fascinating feeling altogether, but this process is much slower than flipping a switch on the wall. Also smart LED bulbs are not as bright as its counterpart. For example low-cost 25-cent incandescent produces 860 lumens of brightness at 60 watts and a $1.25, 14-watt fluorescent produces brightness of 900 lumens. While, the $60 Philips, $30 Insteon and (estimated) $20-30 GreenWave bulbs use just 8.5 watts, 8 watts and 10 watts respectively, but only produces 600 lumens, 448 lumens, and 470 lumens of brightness. They are good for reading purpose, but aren’t apt for everything.

Thus analysing the pros and cons of wireless and LED technology in smart lighting, and it can be concluded that it will take few more years to develop a comprehensive networked smart lighting system making effective use of wireless and LED technology. This development will in turn strengthen the concept of smart city wherein the other important systems in the city like traffic signals, energy meters, pollution sensors, parking-lot lights, and traffic sensors will be integrated together with smart lighting systems to further reduce energy consumption.

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