Industrial Revolution: Lighting the IIOT

By Craig DiLouie | Jun 15, 2016




The World Wide Web connects 10 billion devices and counting into a global network. Any network-enabled device can establish a link to the internet, raising the potential to join building systems appliances and more.

In lighting, the development of intelligent lighting controls and digital communication architectures allowed networkable lighting. The miniaturization of microprocessors enabled intelligence to be embedded in lamps and luminaires. Digital communication enabled remote programming and the collection of data used for energy analysis and maintenance. These controls are inherently compatible with light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, which is also digital.

More recently, capabilities such as the cloud, coupled with growing interest in intelligent building operation and Big Data, have accelerated the development of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). By deploying intelligence throughout a building, it becomes much more responsive. Sensors feed responsiveness while generating valuable data.

Lighting will play a part in the IIoT, but it has another valuable role. The conversion of traditional lighting to LEDs presents an opportunity to use LED luminaires as infrastructure for IIoT delivery.

The IIoT

The IIoT concept is still seeking a firm definition, but we can loosely define it as a network of programmable, intelligent, sensing, interoperable devices applied to a large built application, such as a facility, campus or city. Each device is uniquely addressable within the network, which is connected to the internet by an internet protocol (IP) gateway. The network self-optimizes its performance while generating analytics.

Applications are far-reaching, leading to some staggering forecasts. Tech giant Cisco predicts 50 billion devices will be connected by 2020, while Intel has predicted 200 billion. McKinsey forecasts, in 2025, the IIoT’s global market value will reach $70–$105 billion in office buildings, $410 billion to $1.2 trillion in retail buildings, $1.2–$3.7 trillion in industrial buildings and $930 billion to $1.7 trillion in cities.

The internet of lighting

Using the IIoT’s informal definition above, it’s already being implemented for some building systems. Centralized intelligent lighting control systems consist of uniquely addressable, intelligent control points networked using radio waves or digital low-voltage wiring. The system senses and directs programmable responses to changes in the environment. It is also capable of monitoring and generating energy-consumption reports. Some systems extend sensing to collect additional data about building space occupancy and temperature.

While such a system can produce beneficial energy savings, it may not be realizing its full potential if it operates in isolation.

“Lighting control systems can integrate with building management systems via BACnet and other integration protocols,” said Brian Donlon, vice president of sales, Lutron Electronics Co. Inc., Coopersburg, Pa. “However, the IIoT will make integration easier and more cost-effective, facilitating seamless interoperability between fixed devices, mobile devices and external systems to make spaces and buildings smarter.”

For example, a lighting control system could use sensors to detect occupancy or the presence of a smartphone and then pass that data to other building systems for response. Strengthening the connections between building systems can result in greater energy cost savings.

“Intelligent controls are a first step to energy-reduction schemes, including simple switching, on/off time schedules, occupancy sensing and daylight harvesting,” said Jason Brown, manager of strategic solutions, Current, powered by GE, Boston. “Many of these controls can also be synced with a building-
management system to take functionality to the next level. What this provides is a foundation for simple automation that, over time, allows organizations to migrate more cost-effectively to other intelligent systems and IIoT solutions. The IIoT will allow energy solutions tailored to specific needs, whether that’s simple lighting and [heating, ventilating and air conditioning] control in your local supermarket or miles of connected city streetlights.”

Lighting as IIoT infrastructure

Intelligent lighting controls are going to play a major role in the IIoT, but another potential major player is the simple but ubiquitous luminaire itself. Specifically, LED luminaires.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimated total LED installations at about 215 million units, or 3 percent of the installed base, in 2014. A-lamps, directional products and outdoor luminaires led adoption. In that year, LED high-bay and linear luminaire markets were just emerging. However, we are at the cusp of major growth. The DOE forecasted that, by 2020, LEDs will represent more than 40 percent of the commercial sector’s installed lighting base in lumen-hours. The percentage swings to about 25 percent in the industrial sector and about 75 percent in the outdoor sector.

LED product performance continues to increase while costs decline, making LEDs predominant in new construction lighting sales. Further sweetened by utility rebates, it also is positioning LED options well for upgrades in existing buildings. A significant number of LED luminaires will be installed in the next 5–10 years, and they can be specified with intelligent lighting controls and onboard sensors.

The installation of LED luminaires almost anywhere lighting is used provides a simple opportunity to embed additional sensors into the luminaire and enact broad IIoT strategies. As the cost of these sensors continues to decline alongside LEDs, IIoT deployment becomes even more economical.

“Being architecturally integrated with the building ceiling subsystem, lighting can act as a host for sensors and annunciators that can benefit the building owner and the building occupants,” said Geoff Hammett, product manager, Eaton’s Lighting Division, which is based in Peachtree City, Ga.


"Partnerships between manufacturers and tech companies are key to making intelligent lighting environments an open platform for innovation." —Jason Brown, Current, powered by GE


“Lighting is an infrastructure that can be leveraged to deliver insights on spaces,” said Chuck Piccirillo, director of marketing, Encelium by Osram, Boston. “If sensors are embedded into each luminaire, then there could be thousands of data points in a typical building to provide granular insights for creating productive workplaces, comfortable environments for occupants, and efficient and safer factories/warehouses.”

For this reason, LED lighting has been touted as a delivery platform for the IIoT, suggesting a central role in its deployment in both new and existing buildings. Lighting is installed almost everywhere in the built environment, providing valuable real estate for IIoT usage.


LED lighting and intelligent control, ideally paired, bring considerable features and benefits to a building. The introduction of additional sensors opens up a whole world of analytics and dramatically increases the value of new lighting.

“How we think about lighting has fundamentally changed with the blending of our physical and digital worlds,” Brown said. “Suddenly, lighting is considerably more important to how businesses and cities operate in the most efficient manner. Going forward, the focus of industry is on using data to reduce costs, create new revenue streams and improve services.”

He pointed to a streetlight as an example. An intelligent streetlight could automatically turn on and off while also dimming to a target level during certain hours, maximizing energy savings. Fitted with additional sensors, it could determine if the roadway requires plowing, monitor congestion and adjust traffic signal timing for optimal flow, scan lanes for stalled vehicles, measure pollen, and perform self-diagnostics. Data is delivered to the cloud, where it is accessible to city managers.

“The next phase is gathering insights to provide prescriptive, or proactive, actions to owners and users of smart systems,” Piccirillo said. “That, and utilizing multiple data points to gain insights on operational inefficiencies such as occupant behavior driving the inefficiency.”

He said that the IIoT could improve safety and operational efficiency in a warehouse. For example, tracking forklift movement patterns can lead to optimal inventory placement and warehouse layout designs. Translating data into understanding and response starts with questions. During a schedule shift, why is somebody walking to a certain area when they should be monitoring machinery? Why is a forklift always driving a certain route when there’s a more efficient path available?

Space utilization, occupancy, traffic patterns, safety/security, air quality monitoring, heat mapping, gunshot detection—these and many other opportunities are available by integrating sensing into new luminaires.


Implementing an IIoT strategy is driven by business questions that are answered by incorporating a given set of sensors into the fixture. The basic elements include an LED luminaire, sensors and appropriate intelligent lighting control solution. Devices must then be connected to each other and to a central server for data collection and retrieval.

“Deployment will involve luminaires with embedded sensors or intelligence where they are networked back to a central manager,” Piccirillo said. “Devices will be software-driven to increase visibility into their performance and the environment in which they reside.”

Otherwise, there is currently no typical way of doing it. Contractors should evaluate the lighting and control solution the way they normally would, ensuring good light levels, color quality, features, ease of use, etc. At that point, they can look for IIoT capabilities.

Lighting and control manufacturers are currently developing these capabilities organically and through collaborative partnerships with tech companies. This involves which sensors are available, integration and networking technologies, data processing and storage, and software. Manufacturers are partnering with companies such as Cisco to offer complete Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) systems to provide wiring solutions that deliver low-voltage power to the luminaires and sensors and also enable digital communication. Some may explore the possibility of offering light as a service, a capability afforded by the monitoring capability of advanced control systems.

An open question remains: Who will “own” the data side? The result of large-scale IIoT implementation is a vast amount of data continuously streaming from a high density of data points. Organizations will need help translating that data into meaningful action, which involves software, consulting and other services.

“Manufacturers certainly won’t create all of the solutions,” Brown said. “Apple and the iPhone is a great example of this—if we can show what’s possible, we can inspire others to invent their own applications. Partnerships between manufacturers and tech companies are key to making intelligent lighting environments an open platform for innovation.”

While the market develops, electrical contractors may benefit from becoming more informed about what’s being offered and what’s required for installation and commissioning.

“The installation of the luminaires is not directly affected by IIoT implementation,” said Joe Bokelman, marketing manager, Eaton’s Lighting Division. “With a factory-prewired system, there is only a single connection to make. The additional effort comes in coordination of the commissioning of the systems, and obtaining and executing the control intent of the system as a whole. Interaction with the owner’s IT managers may also be required to complete IIoT deployment. All of these activities will require new skill sets for electricians, foremen, project managers and estimators.”

This data may alter the way contractors do business.

“Connected devices mean there will be more information available at every stage of the process from initial spec to installation to post-occupancy,” Donlon said. “Electrical contractors will need to be more aware of the manufacturer’s tools that make it easier to accurately bid the job and estimate installation and programming time, allowing them to be more competitive on a project.”

“What contractors need to know is that customers are beginning to view lighting and energy as a service, not a product sale, and those who can visualize better outcomes will quickly separate themselves from the competition,” Brown said. “Dream big. The new energy landscape will favor bold solutions. Explore your ideas and accept risk. Partner with others who share your commitment to learning, and understand anything is possible if you can imagine it—that the world changes one light bulb at a time.”

About The Author

DiLouie, L.C. is a journalist and educator specializing in the lighting industry. Learn more at and





featured Video


New from Lutron: Lumaris tape light

Want an easier way to do tunable white tape light?


Related Articles