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Bluetooth Mesh Cements the Business Case for Smart Lighting in Commercial Buildings

Telink Staff

June 30, 2020

Applications

office building at night

For commercial building managers tasked with supporting corporate sustainability goals, cutting operational costs, and adhering to energy codes, lighting systems are often good candidates for smart technology-driven overhauls.

Following federal legislation including the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, many commercial buildings switched to long-lasting, cost-effective LED lights to increase their energy efficiency. As a result, lighting’s share of commercial buildings’ energy consumption dropped from 38 percent in 2003 to 17 percent in 2012.

This dramatic reduction notwithstanding, lighting remains commercial buildings’ third largest electricity usage category (after space heating and “other”), meaning there is plenty of room for building managers to further trim their electricity costs. In many cases, the best approach to doing so will be to upgrade to a next-generation smart lighting system built around a versatile communications protocol like Bluetooth Mesh.

The Diverse Functionality of Smart Lighting Systems

Commercial buildings can expect to enjoy a number of benefits from deploying mesh lighting networks at scale. In commercial smart lighting systems, sensors installed in light fixtures connect to each other and to control points, enabling a range of useful functions. In fact, Gartner predicts that these systems could reduce commercial buildings’ energy costs by up to 90 percent through the utilization of the following functionalities:

Individual control: Occupants can use a smartphone app to exercise precise control over the lighting in their specific areas. They can choose task-appropriate lighting levels or colors, dim lights during daytime hours, or turn off unused lights elsewhere on their floor remotely.

Automated responses: Smart lighting systems’ motion and photoelectric sensors can be programmed to automatically respond to changes in an environment, enabling occupants to control lighting levels based on room vacancy or ambient light through set-it-and-forget-it commands.

Analytics: Smart lighting systems enable building managers to leverage both real-time and historical data about their electricity usage. They can view energy savings, pinpoint high-usage areas, and run analytics that can help them improve their system moving forward.

Smart Lighting Facilitates Sustainability, Compliance, and Cost Cutting

Not every building will see a 90 percent reduction in its energy costs after installing a smart lighting system, but when designed, deployed, and utilized properly, almost every smart lighting system will drive some sort of improvement not only to a building’s cost cutting efforts, but to its energy efficiency and regulatory compliance, as well.

For instance, smart lighting can help businesses with sustainability goals reduce their energy consumption and, by extension, their CO2 footprint. Buildings can leverage smart lighting to improve their energy efficiency in a range of ways, including:

  • Using automated shutoffs and other pinpointed controls to minimize instances of lighting empty rooms;
  • Integrating occupancy data from smart lighting systems to inform HVAC settings (and the settings of other energy consuming systems);
  • Programming lighting systems to automatically dim during the middle of the day to minimize energy usage during the hours when most electrical grids rely on the dirtiest sources of power generation.

Further, despite the current legal limbo of certain federal energy efficiency regulations in the United States, it is in every organization’s best interest to pursue cost-saving energy efficiency measures now to proactively ensure their legal bases are covered — as well as to qualify for the many certifications granted by various non-governmental bodies. For instance, the International Energy Conservation Code and regulations from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers provide baseline requirements for buildings’ energy efficiency. These regulations demand multi-level lighting controls for dimming and vacancy shutoffs, ambient light adjustments, and service metering to gain insight into energy usage — all of which can be achieved with smart lighting systems.

Benefits of Mesh Lighting Networks

Finally, in addition to helping buildings lower their energy bills, energy-efficient smart lighting systems can help building managers reduce the frequency of bulb replacement, lighting equipment maintenance, and other assorted (and costly) tasks. In fact, research has shown that smart lighting systems pay for themselves remarkably quickly — sometimes in as little as two or three years.

Bluetooth Mesh Delivers a Complete Smart Lighting Solution

To deliver the benefits outlined above — particularly at a commercial scale — a smart lighting system must be built on a strong technological foundation. Building managers looking for the ideal solution should strongly consider Bluetooth Mesh, a communications protocol that supports many-to-many node network topologies — a perfect fit for smart lighting systems. Bluetooth Mesh can be used to ensure smart lighting systems include all of the following:

Clear signals: Bluetooth Mesh networks avoid signal interference by enabling frequency-hopping, making them a great fit for business environments crowded with a variety of wireless devices.

Security: Bluetooth Mesh is designed to offer enterprise-grade security. A network provisioner can enforce the protocol’s built-in authentication so that only approved devices are able to join the network. The protocol also allows for subnetting, a process a building manager could use to restrict sensor traffic to specific floors or areas if necessary.

Ease of use: Bluetooth Mesh allows for distributed control, eliminating the need for a centralized dashboard. Individual lights (or clusters of lights) that are part of a smart lighting system can be managed using an authorized smartphone or a control panel connected to the same mesh network.

Scalability: The Bluetooth Mesh protocol enables the formation of a large interconnected web of devices, which means a building manager can address or configure an individual light or hundreds of lights simultaneously depending on their needs.

Low energy: Bluetooth Mesh has low standby power consumption and low operational power requirements, helping energy efficiency-conscious buildings avoid adding to their electrical load.

The Smartest Lighting Hardware

Telink’s chips power millions of devices running on Bluetooth Mesh. We have paired powerful hardware with an industry-leading protocol stack to put Bluetooth Mesh connectivity into the hands of many of the world’s Tier 1 lighting companies. Our cost-effective multiprotocol SOCs offer exceptional functionality and interoperability straight out of the box, enabling a wide variety of smart lighting use cases.

Further, from local voice wake-up and recognition to energy harvesting solutions for sensors and low-power devices, we are constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible for smart lighting systems. In short, we are on a mission to provide smart lighting engineers and manufacturers with the flexible, high-functioning hardware they need to bring about the future of lighting.