Earlier this year, Cree added its proprietary SmartCast dimming to its CR Series LED architectural troffers.
Cree Earlier this year, Cree added its proprietary SmartCast dimming to its CR Series LED architectural troffers.

Solid-state lighting’s electronic capabilities are helping luminaires take on new functions, from integrating wireless sensors to hosting video surveillance. Adding such software offers a valuable proposition, streamlining the equipment required for building systems while reducing the physical space needed for installation. But it also raises critical questions, such as how these light fixtures are sold—as hardware, software, or both—and the extent to which they are protected against tampering in the field or by remote access.

The first step is getting the product on the spec list, and manufacturers today need to sell to more than just the facilities management crew. “Where it used to be you just talked to one person and they decide who does all the lighting, you now have to find multiple touch points,” says Gary Harvey, senior product manager at Amerlux. “If you have the chief of police involved in this discussion or if you’re looking at a college campus and you have the dean of students and the head of security and a facilities manager, then it’s the right audience. It’s making sure you’re talking to the right people.” 

Commercial building managers are increasingly encouraged—if not required—to track the performance of their building systems. And the presence of security systems across corporate and college campuses, as well as downtowns, is ever more common. Integrating new software in the form of multiple sensing components and audio and video surveillance in the hardware of an LED luminaire is a valuable proposition: It simplifies the equipment and lowers its cost, while reducing the physical space occupied with space for mechanical systems at a premium.

That level of integration requires a secure platform. Last year, Amerlux announced a partnership with light-sensory-network developer Sensity Systems to add the firm’s sensing and video functionality to its fixtures. So far, the capability is offered with Amerlux’s traditional post-top fixtures and some of its site and area lighting, Harvey says, and the company hopes to begin installing its first projects with the feature this summer. Although public reaction to integrations that offer remote control and monitoring has been largely speculative when it comes to security, Harvey says that clients are savvy to wireless’ advantages and disadvantages. As an integrator of the technology, Amerlux works closely with Sensity Systems to ensure security measures match what they’re promising clients.

Like Amerlux, Cree works with wireless application providers to ensure that the data collected by the company’s SmartCast system, which features integrated wireless sensors for tasks such as occupancy sensing via its luminaires, remains secure. 

“The lights are now talking to each other and other things, so security was something that we certainly looked at up front,” says Tom Hinds, lighting product portfolio manager at Cree, noting that the company's platform uses 128-bit encryption that not only protects the data but also helps prevent unauthorized control of the system.

As more lighting manufacturers develop integrated luminaires, business models will emerge around this next-gen technology. That will likely mean improved infrastructure and communication among connected systems and more test cases to better inform many of the concerns, like security, that exist in the market today.

Lighting is “a good platform to build communication and connectivity into,” Hinds says. “What you’ll see in the future is really: How does lighting start to incorporate some of the other systems to improve the bottom line for a business, save energy, save cost, but also potentially make the building more functional and useful and productive?”