Global lighting executives shared insights as part of the Asian Lighting Forum – organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) and co-organized by the Hong Kong Electronics & Technologies Association & the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers – under the theme of Smart Lighting: Future Applications.

There’s no question where lighting is heading — and it’s the same direction that the electronics, home, auto, and mobile industries are racing toward: smart living.

William Li, Assistant Vice President/Product Development & Management for the Consumer Group at PCCW, began the session by introducing the company’s Smartliving™ products and services aimed to connect everything in the household. PCCW developed its Internet of Things (IoT) system for Hong Kong because the city has a high level of technology, broadband connectivity, and mobile phone penetration.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”630″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#7322d6″]“Don’t talk about LED anymore; it’s no longer special. Talk about connectivity; this is our Kodak moment.” —Tjaco Middel, Tridonic China [/mks_pullquote]

“We are selling a one-touch control for every household appliance that can be personalized to each family member,” Li noted, adding that the Health & Wellness plus Home Safety & Lifestyle sectors are prime areas for this technology. “In Health & Wellness, [theoretically] we could measure BMI and body temperature and upload it to a cloud service where a nurse or medical professional could be available to assist. In Home Safety, we could incorporate smoke alarm [monitoring] and alerts whenever [window] glass breaks. In the Lifestyle area, we cover lighting, air control, curtains, radiant flooring, pool heating, AV management, and sensor automation for daylight harvesting. These systems are easily expandable.”

Hong-Kong-Lighting-Fair-2016

Li pointed out that lighting is important because it is in every room of the home: “It’s the most pervasive element in the built environment.” He mentioned having His and Her lighting scenes where His could involve movie/sports watching and Hers could incorporate yoga, mahjong, or reading. Li believes that the next major trend will be smart lighting technology to create a “frictionless” living experience. “It’s LED-based, it’s networked, it’s controllable, addressable, and easily integrated,” he explained. PCCW’s expansion into smart technology is a lateral move, and Li said there is a global trend for major telecommunications companies to explore IoT and smart technology consumer solutions.   

Agreeing that the next generation of lighting is in the “smart” realm, fellow panelist Tjaco Middel, head of R&D APAC at Tridonic China, pointed out the importance of connectivity. Since LED technology has plateaued in terms of efficiency and cost savings, Middel believes that the evolution of lighting will shift from focusing on the green/energy-saving aspects to the controls and connectivity realm. The cost of LED is decreasing while the efficacy is increasing. “In 2020, once you reach 200 lumens per watt, you can’t get much better. The only way to be more efficient is through controls — and when you do that, you get better comfort,” he noted.

Middel expects that in the future, lighting will be fully immersed in IoT and that it will also be the end of switches and panels by 2030. “A camera will recognize you and know which temperature you like,” he explained.

Anticipating future market opportunities, Middel said, lighting could play a central role to bridge the gap for IoT due to its universal prevalence, electrical connectivity, and digital capabilities. “The most important part of the IOT description is that it can be done with no human interaction,” he added. Middel believes that the combination of lighting infrastructure and IoT will enable lighting to go beyond illumination. Referring to it as “The Kodak Effect,” Middel noted that “digital cameras became the enemy of Kodak and the smart phone took over that position from digital cameras. The only thing that companies like these, and Uber, are doing is collect data. We have to think beyond illumination. Don’t talk about LED anymore; it’s no longer special. Talk about connectivity; this is our Kodak moment. Digital controllers are becoming cheaper, and the building blocks are there for lighting to bridge the gap to IOT. Soon, if you have lighting, you’ll have connectivity,” Middel remarked. “IP-connected lighting is already here; it makes sense to be fully interoperable. There is also POE (Power Over Ethernet) out there.

“You can save energy with LED, but you can save even more by using controls,” he noted. It is estimated that the global net households with smart systems is projected to rise to 224 million by 2019.

Speaking from both his academic and professional experience, Dr. KF Tsang, founder of Citycom Technology Ltd., discussed developments in lighting connectivity. While exploring the feasibility of a variety of different connectivity technologies, Dr. Tsang identified the ZigBee mesh network as an ideal connectivity solution for lighting that can incorporate energy management and automation applications. RF control can also be a plug-and-play solution. Dr. Tsang said that ZigBee “provides an open standard platform for application development and is a reliable protocol. Wireless gives you plug and play for ease of use.”

Dr. Tsang also discussed his past work for the Mira Hotel as an example of how a ZigBee network can be used for lighting connectivity. The network was used in guest rooms to connect numerous lighting structures to different “control methods,” he explained.

Visible Light Communication (VLC) is another avenue that is being explored, according to Dr. Tsang, who noted that it is cheaper than wi-fi. “Using wi-fi makes a lighting system more expensive than using VLC,” he said. 