New connected lighting technologies bring opportunities and challenges

Advanced energy software package user interface.
Advanced energy software package user interface.

Wired or wireless?

Wired systems are going to have a reliability edge, but it is not always practical to run new infrastructure in an existing building. This constraint is not a barrier for CLS. Many wireless options are available, and indeed, most CLS/smart home systems for residential use are not wired. Even smart replacement bulbs have built-in wireless technology, making integration with an existing environment trivial.

Hybrid systems are also an option, whereby devices that can be hard-wired to the network are done so, and where hardwiring is not feasible or cost-effective, equipment is added wirelessly—this is similar to having hard-wired desktop computers and wireless laptop computers on a network.

Central or distributed control?

Another decision point in the design of a CLS is the control type. Control can be centralized where one component is the ‘intelligence’ in the system, collecting all the data, and sending out all the control instructions. The risk with this option is everything shuts down if the centralized control system experiences a failure.

With distributed control, the ‘intelligence’ is pushed down fully or partially to the individual devices making up the system. These devices are now capable of interpreting the input signal sent to them and acting on it directly. Control is programmed right into the receiving devices, eliminating the possibility of a central point of failure for the system.


Lighting control and management software.
Lighting control and management software.

As with any technology, CLS has its challenges. It is critical for the specifier to truly understand a customer’s needs and level of sophistication to ensure the proper applications are installed to maximize the benefit and fit the end-user. Also, CLS technology comes with a price—there needs to be a tangible return on investment (ROI) for its deployment to make sense. This ROI can come in the form of reduced energy use, more effective security of valuable assets, and an enhanced, productive work environment.

In August 2019, the University of Oregon published a whitepaper, “The Impact of Lighting and Views in the Workplace of the Future,” which concludes daylighted spaces with controlled lighting and views can improve occupant well-being, workplace productivity, and satisfaction by positively influencing various physiological and psychological processes. The researchers concluded, “lighting and views also impact property value and employee recruitment and retention.”

The first word in CLS is ‘connected’—this likely means integration with IT systems. It is best to engage the IT department from the start to make sure the CLS is set up in a way they can support and protect, as well as ensure all components can be integrated. Attention needs to be paid to cybersecurity, as no one wants CLS to be the ‘weak link’ allowing hackers to get into the network.

Further, there will be privacy concerns. People want to know who is getting tracked, and why. When data is being collected on individuals, who is the owner of that data? What rights do the monitored people have? Many of these questions are going to be tested and explored in the coming years.

Future of CLS

CLS are a new-enough technology that its benefits are still being evaluated and debated. The United States Department of Energy has set up a Connected Lighting Test Bed to evaluate CLS. While the definitive benefits are still being researched, the components and their potential are well understood.

Clearly, smart buildings are here to stay, and the acceptance of smart home technology is setting the end-users’ expectations. IoT is already upon us, and CLS are going to have an increasingly significant role to play in future building construction and renovation projects.

Prem Kumar is the technical marketing manager in the lighting division of Hubbell Canada. He is actively involved with the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) and is the past-president of the Toronto section. Kumar can be reached via e-mail at

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