Last week, Cree Inc., introduced their SmartCast Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology; an open platform that enables the Internet of Things (IoT) for buildings through improved lighting control.
“Commercial lighting customers have resisted installing traditional lighting controls because of excess cost and complexity, and the majority of those who have installed controls stop using them as intended after the first year because they’re difficult to maintain”, said Norbert Hiller, executive vice president at Cree.
“Cree SmartCast Technology eliminates these barriers to adoption and delivers the enormous benefit of significantly greater energy cost savings, allowing customers to finally realise the promise of lighting controls”.
The solution was announced at Cisco Live! Berlin and is part of the Cisco Digital Ceiling Framework, which connects disparate systems into a single IP network to create smart connected building systems. SmartCast PoE is the first LED lighting platform to make the Cisco Digital Ceiling Framework ready for mass deployment and adoption.
“Cisco is excited to work with Cree and the global partner community to make the Digital Ceiling framework a reality”, said Tony Shakib, vice president, IoT verticals business unit, Cisco. “Cree’s expertise is important as we make this shift in the industry to help customers in the enterprise begin to harness the benefits of network powered smart lighting solutions”.
After the launch, Avid Solutions, an international automation, industrial IT and smart manufacturing engineering firm, announced it has used Cree LED lighting with SmartCast Technology to deliver intelligent light for its newest US office in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The firm’s new facility is completely illuminated by connected lighting from Cree, providing up to 70% in energy savings and delivering better light that is critical to employee productivity while turning its building into an operational efficiency showcase for clients.
PoE uses standard Ethernet cables to carry both power and data, replacing more expensive AC wiring while networking LEDs and a complement of sensors. Instead of wiring the light fixture into the building’s AC electrical system, it’s simply plugged into an Ethernet port and the network. That approach can only support smaller LEDs due to the thinness of the Ethernet cable, according to Mike Hornung, IHS’ Market Analyst for LED and Lighting. “On a technical level, there are currently a few ways of doing this, but the two most common are using part of the cable for power and part for connectivity, or applying a voltage offset to the signal. Cat-5 Ethernet cabling contains 4 ‘twisted pairs’ in each cable, and for low speeds only two of these pairs are used. Therefore the other two can be used for supplying power”.
In order to transmit data, Ethernet uses ‘differential signalling’, where by the voltage on the line switches from a positive to negative voltage (e.g. 5V to -5V) to represent the ones and zeros of a digital signal. However, if you shift the voltages (to 10V and 0V) you might have a positive average voltage on the line, which can be extracted from the other end.
When you consider this alongside the pervasivity of lighting in buildings, you see the potential for smart lighting to be the platform for numerous IoT systems across the “smart building”, We have written about this extensively in our recent Lighting Controls Report.
Last year, we covered a proof of concept developed by Echelon and Xicato uses power-line communication (PLC) over a low-voltage (DC) power grid. PLC essentially carries data on a conductor that is also used simultaneously for DC electric power transmission. It operates by adding a modulated carrier signal to the wiring system. The choice of 48V for the power system is similar to the voltage level already used in power-over-Ethernet applications and is for instance used for networked phone systems. It therefore negates the need to have any extra wireless communications to control the lights and of course you don’t even need to pull any extra wires.
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Also Last month, Royal Philips said that it had used the PoE approach to power LEDs at Clemson University’s Family Innovation Centre. As a founding innovation partner of the centre, Philips implemented a PoE-based indoor lighting system combined with LED lighting to provide flexible work spaces that encourage collaboration between faculty and students, optimise space management in the facility, and improve energy efficiency.
Typically lighting consumes 40% of a building’s electricity, so the energy savings can be significant. For a system like Philips connected LED, which offers up to 80% energy savings on lighting, this equals a reduction of 30% on the buildings total electricity consumption. Then add the advantages of reduced installation and maintenance costs, as well as all the benefits of connected lighting and light-based sensors, and you see the huge impact PoE could have on the smart building sector.