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    The importance of industry-wide standards and protocols


    It's no accident that connected lighting has become one of the most effective methods of distributing Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities throughout the built environment.

     

    A lighting system offers an ideal platform for connected sensor technology. It's ubiquitous, which supports the deployment of sensors throughout a warehouse or an office or across a whole city. Lighting system hardware is usually overhead, which is a good place for sensors. And a lighting system is by definition already electrified, making it a natural location for installing and powering sensor nodes and other pieces of IoT equipment.

     

    For these and other reasons, smart lighting systems, which combine highly energy-efficient LED lighting with IoT connectivity, are becoming ever more common in office, industrial, city, and other settings.

    Strengthening the IoT ecosystem


    Much work has already been done to make IoT lighting a cost-efficient, easy-to-deploy, scalable, and viable option for energy-efficient illumination in both retrofit and new construction settings. But work in the important area of establishing industry-wide standards and protocols is only now gathering pace, and new efforts are needed to keep the connected tech revolution moving forward.
     

    In recent years, various consortia have been formed to establish, disseminate, and certify connected lighting standards. These organizations typically bring together a range of lighting industry players to set the terms for how the industry should develop.
     

    The Zhaga Consortium, for example, came together in 2010 with a mission to “standardize the interfaces of components of LED luminaires” to ensure interoperability across different companies' products. Then there's the Digital Illumination Interface Alliance (DALI Alliance), another key consortium with a mandate to standardize digital communications among lighting control devices.

    In an important step forward for the connected lighting ecosystem, Zhaga and the DALI Alliance joined forces in May 2019 to launch the joint Zhaga-D4i standard. Under this standard, manufacturers can design their luminaires so that sensors and communications nodes can be added in a plug-and-play fashion. Manufacturers who win certification can mark their products with both the Zhaga and D4i logos.

     

    As Zhaga, the DALI Alliance, and other groups issue new standards, lighting systems and products will become ever more simple and interoperative, making the easier to deploy and manage, and making the benefits of IoT connectivity stronger and more widely available.

    A boon for security—and for sustainability


    Interoperability isn't the only key benefit that industry-wide standards and protocols can bestow. Security is another.

     

    Security is a challenge for the IoT. Every new hardware node or software module added to the system can offer a target for bad actors. Industry-wide standards promise to play an important role in ensuring security across the ecosystem.

     

    Signify is already a leader in security certification. In May 2020, its connected lighting development process was the first in the world to win security certification from the German inspection company DEKRA.

     

    Industry standards will also pay off when it comes to sustainability. IoT technology is already a boon for resource efficiency. Connected city applications, such as smart traffic management, and smart office solutions, such as HVAC systems that adjust in real time to outdoor weather conditions, are just two of many examples of energy-efficient systems in use today.

     

    Standards will make applications even better, ensuring that smart environments use interoperable, repeatable system designs. This approach is by its nature more efficient: when components work consistently, fewer of them require replacement—and when they do, fewer resources are needed to ensure that they are working properly and delivering expected performance.

    Additionally, components that work seamlessly across ecosystems are easier to upcycle and keep in use. This happy reality is squarely in line with the principles of the circular economy—a model which is crucial to achieving sustainability.

    Towards a unified IoT ecosystem


    To alter an old saying, “For lack of a nail, the kingdom wasn't built.” The IoT kingdom is getting bigger and better each year, but the case that a lack of cross-industry standards is a hindrance.

     

    Unless the IoT evolves to become a unified ecosystem, it will never achieve its full potential. Industry leaders who have recognized this fact are stepping up to establish the required standards. The end result will be a greener, safer, and more user-friendly tech-enabled world.

    About the author

    Jonathan Weinert, IoT and Connected Lighting, Signify
    Award-winning writer Jonathan Weinert has been been researching and reporting on LED lighting, connected lighting, and the IoT since joining Signify in 2008. 

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