Intelligent Energy: How the Industrial Internet Is Making Lighting Systems Smart

Intelligent Energy: How the Industrial Internet Is Making Lighting Systems Smart

This piece was originally published in the February 2017 issue of electroindustry.

Joseph Howley, Manager, Industry Relations, Current, powered by GE

Illustration courtesy of GE Lighting

It wasn’t long ago that the Internet of Things (IoT) completely changed the consumer technology landscape. From phones and televisions to appliances and light bulbs, everyday products are suddenly “smart” and helping people complete tasks, find information, and interact more efficiently–accurately and in real time. Now, the same is true for businesses as the Industrial IoT (IIoT) emerges.

The IIoT is benefiting businesses in three ways: energy efficiency, system maintenance, and productivity. Along with sensors and software, the IIoT is transforming energy systems—such as lighting—into a digital infrastructure that provides detailed energy and maintenance analytics, while offering environmental insights, improving employee productivity, and even driving new revenue streams. Smarter energy means smarter business.

Energy Optimization

It’s estimated that the average commercial building can improve its energy efficiency by more than 30 percent, and with 5.6 million such buildings in the United States alone, there is a huge savings opportunity. More efficient solutions and controls are becoming more prevalent and improving the way businesses consume energy, but connecting those systems to the IIoT unlocks an entirely new realm of energy management.

New software and hardware tools are transforming the way customers monitor and optimize energy use. By integrating sensors and software, customers can now see exactly when, where, and how their lighting systems are consuming energy across different buildings, even if they are located on different sites. This is truly significant for many businesses that are managing multiple buildings —sometimes dozens or hundreds—across their enterprises. These new tools offer both a holistic energy view across sites and the details of each, while powerful software enables not only historic but also predictive and prescriptive analytics.

Overall, customers are expected to save up to 20 percent of their monthly energy use by using intelligent management tools. Add this to the immediate savings offered by an LED lighting system upgrade (sometimes up to 50 percent) and lighting controls, and customers are seeing significant monthly cost savings and improving their overall bottom lines.

Business Optimization

By collecting data through sensors and software, intelligent systems harness the power of the IIoT to not only offer invaluable operational insights but also enable new methods of interaction and information.  From heat maps that optimize office layouts and mobile coupons based on shoppers’ precise locations to analytics for employee optimization, there are huge possibilities for a custom, digital business.

By embracing the IIoT, businesses are finding new and better outcomes through their lighting systems that ensure they stay competitive from both an energy and operational view. Bringing buildings from idle to intelligent, today’s lighting systems go beyond illumination.

Energy is a large overhead cost to any business, and customers are looking for holistic, simple ways to manage energy more intelligently. As the lighting industry integrates sensors and software across systems, business operations can transform the way they see and optimize not only their energy use but also their operational productivity.

Increasingly, entities are seeing the benefits of building automation and are seeking out connectivity. The lighting industry is integrating intelligence through infrastructure such as new LED luminaires, and new software applications harness the power of data beyond energy savings.  Customers across a variety of commercial building types are realizing the energy-saving potential of intelligent software applications, with pilot installations already underway.

The IIoT is already being used by national customers including McDonald’s and Simon Property Group.  From lighting to HVAC systems, restaurants, retailers, warehouses, and commercial businesses can use the  IIoT to see exactly where and when energy is being used in real time, while powerful software enables thorough analytics.

“At McDonald’s, we aspire to deliver exceptional service for both our internal and external customers. We are always interested in technologies that can improve our capabilities and operational KPIs while enhancing the customer experience,” said James Floyd, vice president of U.S. operations for McDonald’s Corporation.

“New EMS tools provide actionable analytics around energy use and offer insights into additional dimensions that enhance our customers’ experience. This intelligence provides infinite possibilities that include optimizing labor, reducing operational tension and improving overall efficiencies and effectiveness at the restaurants, all while creating sustainable, profitable growth,” he said.

New energy management software is also being piloted with Simon Property Group, a global leader in retail real estate ownership, management and development for shopping malls retail properties across the United States.

“This connected, real-time view of how, when, and where energy is being used enables our site managers to take actions to reduce and shift energy away from the grid during peak periods, saving significant monthly costs,” said Michael Romstad, executive vice president of property management for Simon Property Group.

“We’ve already installed efficient solutions such as LEDs at several Simon properties, which are providing significant energy savings and better lighting levels,” he continued. “We estimate the energy management solution will help us reduce consumption across the board at The Westchester mall [in White Plains, New York] by about 20 percent.”

Connecting new commercial LED lighting systems to the IIoT is quickly moving from concept to reality, with benefits for all.

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