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“If you want to know what’s going on in a building, there’s no better place to do that than to watch from the top down,” said Sanjiv Kaul, EVP, Marketing, Enlighted. The eight-year-old Sunnyvale, Califorina, company is at the forefront of a movement that puts lighting at the heart of the smart building, and Kaul’s chairman, CEO, and well-known Silicon Valley executive Joe Costello, goes so far as to say “we give buildings consciousness.”

Lighting is fundamental to an occupants experience in a building. Lighting accounts for approximately 40% of energy consumption in buildings. Lighting’s ubiquitous nature makes it the ideal platform upon which to establish the Internet of Things in Buildings (BIoT). These three statements, which we discussed in an article early this year, underline the significance of lighting’s evolution to the continued development of smart buildings.

“Lighting is undergoing a rapid transformation as LEDs become the number one source of light in buildings. This is the single most important driver for the growth of Bus-based lighting controls and their convergence with IT Networks and integration into the BIoT,” states our lighting report – Smart Buildings: The Lighting Controls Business.

There is a growing consensus across the building sector that lighting is the perfect platform for hosting the BIoT, through systems like Enlighted’s own unified digital sensor and data analytics system. “We now have market-proven systems and approaches for collecting digital data, analyzing it on the back end and empowering commercial building owners with the ability to act on the data. And it all starts with lighting”, said Costello.

Enlighted is not alone in its quest; their technology is supported by ARM IP in its smart-lighting IoT technology, for example. The two strategic partners, ARM and Enlighted, along with system integrator IOEnergy, came together this year to create a demonstration of lighting’s ability to give buildings “consciousness.” And where better than in ARM’s own offices in San Jose, California.

Previously, lighting in ARM’s 32 year old building was what you might expect; fluorescent lighting that could be turned on or off at set intervals, through simple sensors and lighting controls. That all changed at the beginning of the year when, over a couple of weeks, workers installed hundreds of sensors in the San Jose building.

The lights themselves were upgraded from relatively efficient 28w T5 fluorescent elements to even-more-efficient 13w LEDs. Each node was hardwired into the lighting fixture for power and connected peer-to-peer by a version of IEEE wireless standard 802.15.4 back to a series of gateways. One gateway can handle as many as 50-100 sensors. “These are basically minicomputers, each collecting bits of sensor data 65 times per second,” said Danny Krueger, CEO of IOEnergy.

The new, entirely programmable, network technology they installed allows a facility manager to control all lighting in the building, from whole areas to individual lights. ARM’s office lights can now modify their brightness based on the occupancy around each fixture and apply daylight harvesting, by adapting to the levels of ambient light illuminating the space. The system can also be extended to match the ever-changing needs of the company.

The system saves ARM money by reducing energy consumption, but the true value of such systems extends far beyond savings on lighting. Simply by switching to LEDs, the firm not only reduces energy bills but also maintenance costs – as the 15-year life of LEDs is four times longer than fluorescents and 10 times longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs.

Beyond savings on energy and maintenance, connected lighting systems provide even greater ways to improve return on investment (ROI) for building owners. Sensor rich lighting fixtures create new streams of data in real-time, which be used to optimize how a building is used for health, comfort and productivity benefits.

A smart-sensor-based lighting system can enhance safety, security, scheduling, hot-desking, and even parking. It can support building managers in understanding traffic and usage patterns, in order to optimize based on accurate data rather than just a gut feeling. Recently, artificial intelligence has been taking such systems to new levels; learning to provide greater insight and learning to automate more reliably.

When ARM, IOEnergy and Enlighted ran the numbers, they believed the system would pay for itself in three years, above average for ROI in building automation projects. Their system has now been up and running since February 2017, and ARM has announced it has already achieved savings over its baseline of more than 50%. This is more than consciousness – this is intelligence.

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