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Intelligent Luminaires with Integrated Controls

By Craig DiLouie

Many commercial building energy codes now require automatic shutoff, multilevel control, and daylight harvesting, with a general trend toward flexibility in both control zoning and luminaire light level reduction. LED lighting is highly compatible with lighting control. LED luminaires are typically offered with dimming standard or as an option. “The instant-on and dimming capabilities of LED lighting give end-users unprecedented control over the environment,” said Tom Hinds, product portfolio manager for Cree (www.cree. com). “They can adjust light levels and increase the energy savings by dimming in response to daylight or building occupancy.”

As control becomes increasingly important, a number of lamp and luminaire manufacturers, either on their own or by partnering with a control company, have begun integrating control devices within their products. Examples range from the basic, such as a standalone LED wallpack with an integrated motion sensor, to sophisticated systems integrating multiple sensors into luminaires and then tying these luminaires together within an intelligent control network for lighting management across a room or facility.

“The rapid adoption of LED lighting in both new construction and retrofit applications comes at the same time energy codes are becoming more stringent,” said Audwin Cash, vice president, Acuity Control Solutions, Acuity Brands Lighting ( 

“It is natural for customers to find ways to marry the two for increased simplicity and cost savings,” Cash continued. “As manufacturers, we want to make it easy for our solutions to be deployed, and there is nothing easier than having installers connect controls into the system by simply connecting the hot, neutral, and ground on a luminaire.”

For the designer, there are fewer items to consider, as sensors are integrated into the luminaire, eliminating power and controls wiring. There is also peace of mind that they are specifying a proven system known to be compatible and from a single manufacturer. For the installer, there are fewer devices to install and coordinate placement, potentially reducing installation time. For the distributor, luminaire-integrated controls can simplify the solution and reduce the number of devices needed. 

“Integrated LED lighting and control can mean less coordination between vendors on projects, fewer purchase orders, and fewer phone calls to track down missing shipments,” said Cash. “With one vendor responsible for the system, a lot of coordination and waste associated with project management of separate systems are eliminated.”

Intelligent lighting

The most powerful options available con­sist of intelligent luminaires with onboard sensors that are tied together in a communication network that may be hardwired or wireless.

Brian Bernstein, global head of in­door lighting systems, Philips Lighting (, said intelligent LED lighting systems with integral controls should be regarded as having a local and application layer. The local layer represents each luminaire’s “reflexes,” such as dimming in response to available daylight. The application layer covers lighting management activities that occur across the application and the collection of data that can be fed into a database for analysis using software. For example, a municipality could install streetlights with luminaire controls for on/off at the local layer while collecting data at the application layer for energy analysis and maintenance. 

Going even further, intelligent lighting permits a vision of the lighting system as a platform that combines a network of intelligent luminaires with additional sensors, controls, and software providing capabilities that go beyond illumination. 

“LED luminaires with integrated con­trols may offer a range of additional ca­pabilities,” Bernstein said. “Some communicate information about their own status and operations—including internal operating temperature, energy metering, and lifetime monitoring—that lighting system owners and managers can use to optimize system performance, efficiency, and maintenance. 

“Other LED luminaires use integrated sensors to collect information on usage and environmental factors in illuminated spaces, such as occupancy levels and activity patterns, temperature/ humidity changes, and daylight levels,” he continued. “If the lighting system is integrated with a lighting management software platform on the back end, system owners and managers can store, visualize, and analyze historical information about luminaire performance and activities in illuminated spaces for decision support, greater insight into worker/customer behavior, and en­hanced facility management.”

The latter envisions lighting, an electric lighting system prevalent in every building, as a delivery point for an Internet of Things—LED lighting as advanced digital building infrastructure capable of collecting data, delivering information to occupants, or both. Bernstein sees this as the future of lighting in many buildings.

“In general, the market share for in­telligent luminaires is relatively low to­day but is expected to be much higher in five years,” said Jonathan Weinert, strategic content development for connected lighting systems at Philips Lighting. “Within that timeframe, we anticipate that the market will reach a tipping point, with the center of gravity shifting from analog or load-based control to digital control, profoundly affecting the lighting industry from end to end. Once this transition is complete, we expect the lighting industry to look much more like the electronics and IT industries rather than the traditional lighting industry of the last 100 years or so. This transition has already started to occur.”

In the interim, he said, it’s practical to regard applications as individual spaces with individual control needs. In some, traditional lighting may be sufficient, while others, such as highly occupied spaces such as offices, can benefit from intelligent lighting. This hybrid system can be integrated using a gateway or other integration method.

Industry changes may include new business models focused on services and support, with new players taking a more active role in lighting decisions. “The more connectivity you have with the lighting and intelligence embedded in luminaires, the more critical it becomes to have software to manage and magnify the benefits of these systems,” Cash said. 

“For traditional lighting manufacturers, some of these changes afford new business models around services and support that allow end-users to get maximum benefit with significantly lower cost of ownership,” he continued. “Traditional lighting, lighting control, and HVAC providers will certainly be involved. As luminaires collect and manage increasingly more data, we will see new players in the networking, data, advertising, mobile marketing, and security space take more active roles in selecting lighting.”

For distributors, intelligent lighting control offers ongoing opportunity in their lighting business, but education is key. 

“Keep learning and experiment with the technology,” Cash advised. “This is an extremely dynamic category advancing at a rapid pace. We will be challenged to rethink our role in the construction process as luminaires become more intelligent.”

“In both LED lighting and lighting controls, distributors should look for high-performance products that are easy to use and reduce maintenance and energy costs without forcing end-users to compromise on light quality or performance,” Hinds concluded. 

Craig DiLouie, LC, principal of Zing Communications (, is a lighting industry journalist, analyst, marketing consultant, and author. Reach him at

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