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The Intelligent LED Lighting Opportunity

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As published in the May 2017 issue of Security Dealer & Integrator magazine, with videos added for this online version.
Updated in August of 2018 with additional comments and two new smart building videos.

The Coming Wave

The arrival of PoE-powered intelligent LED lighting is a technology wave that brings major opportunities for facility security improvements. But the opportunities are not obvious. They would ordinarily pass right by us just like such opportunities have in the past. This time, however, the consequences of missing out are much greater than for the opportunities we missed previously. These opportunities won’t appear automatically. We’ll need to plan, engage the right stakeholders, and bring it all together.

Missed Opportunities

The two previously missed opportunities both involve enterprise-wide network upgrades:

  • 1998 to 2000: network upgrades for the Y2K problem, which increased network capacities by an order of magnitude (such as 10 Mbps to 100 Mbps) or more
  • 2005 to 2012: network upgrades for Voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephone systems

The opportunity in each type of network upgrade project was, at the very least, for security departments to add spare fiber optic cabling and Ethernet copper cabling for future use, at a fraction of the cost to do so later. For example, at the time of the Y2K problem it cost about $50 per linear foot to install network cable in an international U.S. airport, while the cost of a bundle of fiber cable was about $1.35 per linear foot.

This is why some smart-thinking major airports doubled their Y2K network cable installation for less than 3% of what it would have cost later to install the additional cable. Similarly, the security departments of many organizations could have funded company-wide network cable additions and included some additional network switches for security use, and been ready for networked video for a fraction of the later cost. Because of missing this opportunity, many organizations could not deploy enterprise-wide access control and video systems in the early 2000s.

About five years after Y2K, corporate VoIP deployments began upgrading the quality and capacity of corporate networks to replace analog phone systems, and included backup power so that phone systems could continue to operate despite local power outages. Backed-up network power is a good way to keep PoE-powered security video cameras online when power is lost. For cents on the dollar, a network infrastructure suitable for megapixel video could have been deployed.

Intelligent LED Lighting

The upcoming security opportunities with intelligent LED lighting are orders of magnitude bigger and better than the previous Y2K and VoIP opportunities. Properly utilized, they would enable us to embrace 4K cameras, next-generation video analytics, and intelligent building real-time data and control capabilities. Leading retail businesses are already putting such advanced analytics to good use.

These lighting-related opportunities are arriving in two waves, and the first wave is already in progress—intelligent LED lighting for new building projects. The second wave is for retrofit projects. These two waves have greatly differing dynamics, but to understand either one of the waves requires a grasp of the vision for intelligent buildings and the drivers behind it.

The Evolution of Connected Workplaces

Over the past two decades, companies have automated and outsourced much of their routine, structured and process-oriented work. Most of the work that’s left is unstructured, often complex, and highly collaborative. Cloud applications, universal network connectivity, video conferencing and personal mobile computing are the tools that today’s workers use. The need for desktop telephones, personal desktop computers and handy storage for printed data is disappearing.

Today’s young workers prefer personalizable workspaces that help them get the job done in a comfortable way. They opt for common work areas with flexible collaboration options that include dry erase walls, sharable touch-screen electronic whiteboards, and video conferencing to work jointly with remote employees, partners, contractors and vendors. They want workspaces that can take them out into the world, and bring that world back to them, as best fits getting the job done. They also want spaces available in which they can ponder, study, take a break, relax and then get back to work. You can see the evolution of such workspaces in and around Silicon Valley.

The Architectural Problem

From these changes in workspace concepts, a problem arose: traditional buildings cannot be repurposed easily enough to meet the changing business needs of today’s workplace occupants. And older buildings need much better networking.

This situation prompted a new wave of architectural design, which began more than 10 years ago. It has begun transforming our physical building environments into intelligent electronically-enabled environments. Buildings that consist of isolated private offices, work cubicles and scarce meeting spaces are being replaced by building environments with highly configurable, mostly-collaborative flexible workspaces.

Today’s business environments need people-centered connectivity, not desk-centered connectivity. But they also need building-systems connectivity that enables the building spaces to automatically conform to the needs and wants of its at-the-moment occupants.

What’s more, businesses need feedback from their buildings. They need building systems to analyze and provide data on the conditions and activities within them, so that the use of buildings can be better managed according to the purposes of each space within. This includes managing for comfort, for safety and security of occupancy, for facility efficiency, and for tuning the operations of the business per business objectives. “Digital buildings”, “smart buildings” and “human-friendly buildings” are the phrases used to describe these next-generation buildings. Cisco has coined the term “Digital Ceiling” to refer to the intelligent systems infrastructure of digital buildings, most of which will reside in and above the ceilings.

The Digital Ceiling

PoE-powered intelligent LED lighting installations spread networking across the ceilings, which is why Cisco has dubbed intelligent LED lighting as “the Digital Ceiling’s first wave”. The two-minute video below presents the key concepts. It’s the extensive networking of building systems that opens the door for next-generation security system improvements.

Three Intelligent Building Examples

Located in the Zuidas financial district in Amsterdam, The Edge, completed in 2015, has been dubbed “The World’s Greenest Building” as well as “The Smartest Building in the World”. The 4-1/2 minute video below, by Bloomberg Business, presents the green and smart building features of this impressive facility.

  One Albert Quay opened in 2016 as the smartest building in Ireland. It is quickly described in the 2-minute video below.   The UTC Center for Intelligent Buildings opened in April, 2018 and is the first building ever of its type. Located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, it is a showcase that features solutions and interactive displays from the United Technologies, making all the normally-hidden inner workings of the building plainly visible, as can be seen in the 3-minute video below.   As these videos illustrate, intelligent building are no longer just a concept for the future. They are being built right now all around the world.

Living Lighting

Living lighting is the only phrase that I can think of for how the nature of lighting is changing in ways that we can feel, that we can change to match or enhance our mood, that makes our built environments responsive to what we’re doing as individuals, teams, groups and organizations. This is not about the technicality of what a light meter says hits a desktop or page. It’s about the building experience.

This is a three-part video. The first two parts of the video play automatically, then we stop the playback where the music stops at the end of the second video, so you have a chance to think for a minute about what these capabilities could mean for you.

To play the third part of the video, click at 3:07 on the video progress bar, which resumes playing at "Lighting isn't just functional . . ." The third part of the video is about the software application that puts the design and control of lighting into our hands.

Two Types of Intelligent LED Lighting Projects

There are two types of intelligent LED lighting projects: new building construction projects, and retrofit projects. Both types of projects share a security benefit, which is that the network costs for safety & security improvements are incremental to the main project plan. The engineering design and building-wide network infrastructure costs are already covered by HVAC and lighting system upgrades.

The safety & security design can include network elements beyond sensors, speakers and cameras, such as multi-purpose digital signage, which would be used for business purposes most of the time. The security and safety stakeholders include HR, Legal, Risk Management, and Marketing (for multi-tenant facilities). Advanced safety and security capabilities can beneficially influence insurance costs. Financial stakeholders are usually highly supportive of safety and security improvements when they are a small fraction of the other building systems costs.

Game-Changing Retrofit Projects

The big opportunity for building security improvements lies with retrofit projects, due to the great reductions in ongoing lighting costs that intelligent LED lighting brings. These projects solve several challenges that integrators have had in transitioning to subscription-based, as-a-service offerings that provide recurring monthly revenue. Important project factors include:

  • Because lighting electrical costs are a permanent OpEx commitment, a 60% to 85% lighting cost reduction enables redirecting a portion of that existing OpEx budget to subscription-based building systems provided as-a-service. This can and should include next-generation electronic security systems.
  • The larger the facility, the greater the lighting energy cost reductions, and the smaller the security system upgrades are as a percentage of the overall savings.
  • Retrofit project payback periods will vary depending upon the complexities involved in the physical aspects of the retrofit project. 24/7 highly technological environments, such as hospital facilities and food and pharmaceutical manufacturing plants, have higher project costs, while many office and retail environments have lower project costs.
  • The older the building, the larger the scope of the retrofit projects may need to be in order to address structural, cable pathway and building aesthetic concerns.
  • Like all high-ROI technology advances, energy-saving lighting technology tends to have fast-spreading and thus short adoption waves, due to the high availability of case study information on the web. We don’t have any time to lose in taking part in the opportunities.

Getting Ahead of the Curve

For nearly five years, healthcare and other types of facilities have been transitioning to conventional LED lighting, and have documented both the cost savings and the facility comfort and productivity improvements. Now, a new educational effort is required because the PoE-powered intelligent LED lighting is a brand-new technology, and the great number benefits that the Digital Ceiling brings are not widely known.

This means that for the first time ever, security consultants, systems integrators and security application vendors can participate in the start of a new technology wave, one that will help inspire and drive into adoption a new generation of cloud-based and IoT-ready security technologies. But to do so, we must get ready for it, and most of us are very late getting started!

If you’d like to have a conversation about safety, security and smart building operations – do call me (949-831-6788) or write (