Award-winning industrial intelligent lighting system, Digital Lumens, has released an API to allow customers to integrate energy efficiency, movement sensors, and lighting control directly into their own building management dashboards and applications. The capabilities of the API and how it is being used demonstrate the current progress towards an industrial Internet of Things vision.
Smart Lighting Primed for Internet of Things Rollout
Smart lighting is expected to be one of the next big Internet of Things sectors to take off. From the home to the public level, new initiatives suggest a readiness in the sector to move towards smart, connected, and even interoperability, of systems. In the home, lighting systems like Philips hue offer granular-level control over home LED lighting. Philips make APIs available so that lighting management can be integrated into home automation applications. At the city level, new infrastructure is being built that combines lighting with sensors and wifi. Kansas City in the U.S., for example, is currently implementing an infrastructure project that will combine Cisco’s IoT capabilities, Sprint’s telecommunications network, and Sensity’s lighting systems to reduce energy consumption, enable lights to self-report when they need repairing, and sense movement at night to determine the appropriate level of lighting required.
But perhaps one of the most advanced areas of deployment of smart lighting is in the industrial setting. Digital Lumens — a smart lighting company that recently showcased their product at O’Reilly Solid in San Francisco — won this year’s Internet of Things Product of the Year from IoT Evolution magazine for their LightRules Insight cloud-based dashboard solution to monitor their LightRules lighting products. LightRules Insight comes with an API that lets customers feed key metrics into their own management dashboards and reports rather than rely on the bespoke product from Digital Lumens.
“We create intelligent lighting systems: sensor-laden LED systems. In the commercial and industrial sector, we light 200 million square feet of space worldwide across 40 countries,” says Director of Marketing, Allison Parker.
Digital Lumens currently manufactures high bay lighting (often used in warehouse and factory settings), linear lighting (akin to neon tubes and used in similar environments), and stand-alone digital light agents (increasingly used in retail settings).
All lighting can measure levels of daylight, movement and room occupancy, and can manage lighting energy expenditure, which in turn can be controlled via the LightRules software-based solution.
“We provide an API to our customers to write their own custom lighting codes,” says Jason Hanna, Director of Software Products. “At the moment, it is a small percentage of customers that are using our API, but the greatest interest is from our Fortune 500 customers who want to integrate lighting control into their own building management solutions.“
Hanna gives the example of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. The Ivy League university maintains a sports facility where competition-level athletics events are held These need to conform to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) lighting requirements. At other times, the facility is used by hockey games, which have their own lighting standards. “They wanted to give permissions the field hockey manager versus those involved with NCAA track events to set lighting levels. They used our API to build a custom app to do that,” says Hanna.
Digital Lumens is seeing some of its greatest uptake of the API amongst those customers managing large sites such as warehouse distribution, aviation hangars, big box retail, and in education environments. These customers are more likely to use the API, as “they have tech sophistication in terms of using building management systems,” says Hanna.
The API is RESTful and returns JSON. Customers can monitor fixtures and lighting zones, fetch current energy, lighting and movement information and push particular lighting profiles, as Dartmouth does in its custom use case.
APIs Versus Proprietary Software for IoT Products
While the company is seeing some steady growth in the potential of the API, for now, the majority of customers prefer the level of management available via the LightRules web-based software. This enables a business’ lighting to become a part of their network infrastructure. Lights include coarse granular movement sensors so that, for example, when a person is detected in one area of a warehouse, lighting levels can light up the surrounding area to match the working area expected from someone in that area (or for example, can light up the way ahead for a forklift entering an aisle).
The software also enables particular lights to be defined as the central coordination points that trigger and manage a range of other sensors. In the software, heat maps can be generated to show intensity of movement under the overall space, and data points on energy efficiency and carbon emissions can be collated regularly.
While these functionalities are more extensive via the software than the API, Hanna says the API is often being used as a leverage point in talking with building management service providers and in piloting IoT industrial hub projects.
We have made friends with the various building management systems. For example, BACnet is the dominant standard, and we are responding to customer requests to make Digital Lumens available for BACnet projects. The theory of operation that goes into lighting optimization strategies is inherent in our LightRules product but it is difficult to expose in an API. We have built a lot of intelligence in our software to enable 90-95% savings, so it is difficult to pull that out in an API. We need to ask: do customers want reporting, or control, and the answer can vary based on the role of the customer. It usually starts with getting efficiency gains, and then the appetite gets fed for data. Its about appetites and aspirations.
We do see our digital light agents (DLAs) being added to third party fixtures. For example, we have DLAs for the Philips EvoKit product, and at the recent Lightfair, we demonstrated an integration with Lucid. We were the first lighting manufacture to integrate with them via API.
Hanna and Parker believe smart lighting is still very much at its nascent stage and that as LED becomes ubiquitous, new visions of what is possible will open up, making it a ripe field for API integrations.
Hanna points to using lighting colors in education as a way to keep students alert, and has been in contact with sleep researchers who are showing that with granular control of lighting, it is possible to keep young learners more focused, possibly providing alternatives to ADHD medications. In the travel industry, airplanes could use colored lighting to create sleepfulness and wakefulness moods, and this could then extend to hotels who could using APIs to better understand what time zone a hotel guest is coming from, and then control the room lighting so as to help customers adjust to the new time zone.
“This is what lighting can do in the next 5 years,” says Hanna.
For now, the API is not suited to design third party apps, but API developers responsible for supporting building management custom applications and those with an interest in developing expertise in the IoT industrial market can learn more about the API directly from Digital Lumens.