In part 1 of our discussion with Michael Siminovitch, Director of the California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC) and the Rosenfeld Chair in Energy Efficiency and a professor in the Department of Design at UC Davis, we talk about adaptive outdoor lighting and the urban fabrics of light. In part 2, we’ll cover how standards, biology, energy goals and other factors play a role in setting thoughtful lighting strategies.
Echelon: Let’s start with some basics. What is adaptive lighting?
Michael Siminovitch: Adaptive lighting is actually a very simple construct. What it means is that lighting changes automatically, according to need.
ECHELON: How did the California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC) become interested in adaptive lighting?
SIMINOVITCH: The CLTC was established as a true public/private partnership where industry, the utilities, and the public entities here in California—the efficiency entities—looked at the next steps they could engage in to help accelerate the development of sustainable lighting technologies.
About 12 years ago, we started looking at night-time lighting, particularly in the acres of parking lots and exterior lighting where lights stay on for extremely long periods of time, and wondered what we could do about that. We pulled together an industry partnership to explore what could be done with emerging technologies, with lighting controls, and with solid-state technology, to make a significant impact on the waste of energy and light pollution and light disturbances happening around these lighted outdoor spaces.
We asked, could we dynamically address the lighting according to need, and to do it in a way that preserves safety and security and aesthetics? This isn’t just about turning off the lights. It’s the idea of reducing lighting levels during periods of low activity to save energy, while adjusting lighting dynamically to maintain and accentuate safety.
ECHELON: How did you get started in implementing these adaptive lighting approaches for real-world outdoor spaces?
SIMINOVITCH: One of our early projects, which was the first fully adaptive parking lot in the country, was done here in California with one of our lighting partners. The UC Davis chief of police reviewed the plan and worked with us on the project. Lighting is a very important amenity that supports safety and security and provides proper egress. We wanted to make sure that the people who were the key stakeholders of the safety and security community were really involved in this process.
So we tried dynamically adjusting lighting, to bring it down to something like the 50% level—not turning it off—during periods of inactivity, but restoring it very quickly to full level when integrated sensors detected any kind of motion. In our early work with the police department, we found that this kind of bi-level capability accentuated the sense of security and safety.
ECHELON: How can adaptive lighting help accentuate safety and security?
SIMINOVITCH: Say you’re moving into a parking lot or going into a pathway and a light all of a sudden becomes brighter because it detects motion. Or say that the lighting level jumps from 50% to 100% because it senses motion. It heightens your awareness that somebody is there, or there’s movement. For security professionals, if they’re watching a nighttime area lit at 50% and suddenly one area brightens, they can pay attention and maybe investigate that area.
ECHELON: What are some other ways that adaptive lighting can be useful, beyond the obvious energy savings of diminishing light levels when 100% isn’t necessary?
SIMINOVITCH: Let’s look at how adaptive lighting is evolving. Initially, the controls are onboard each fixture, and it’s sort of a singularity. The fixture gets installed in the field and it offers sensor control and the bi-level functionality we’ve discussed. You get good energy savings and it works well, but it opens the doors to other opportunities.
The next step is to use strategically located sensors that communicate to one or more fixtures. With this kind of networked lighting, you can centralize the control sensing capability. Being able to make decisions locally and then communicate them regionally, as the Lumewave from Echelon controls do, is an attractive concept. In a pathway or road or large parking lot, you can sense at one point and RF communicate to multiple fixtures, downstream or upstream.
You can also report back to a home base. Now you’ve got really good energy reporting, and energy reporting is critical in controlled networks. Knowing what time specific lights were on is important for energy policy and also for safety and security functions. Energy reporting tells you when something’s not working, so you can improve your maintenance functions.
ECHELON: Where is this kind of networked, adaptive lighting being used today?
SIMINOVITCH: The University of California at Davis (UCD) has the largest networked university campus in the United States. Over 1600 points of outdoor lighting is fully networked [using Lumewave by Echelon technology]. UC Davis plans to add to the network and add more in the near future. We’re learning all kinds of very interesting things about the flow of traffic, the flow of people, how lights are being used, and at what time. It’s a way to really understand how our urban fabric of lights are actually used. And I think this is going to be tremendously informative as we evolve new lighting systems around the whole adaptive lighting paradigm.
IIoT Talks is a conversation between industry luminaries and Echelon Corporation about the opportunities of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market. Echelon shares highlights of these conversations via the company blog. If you are interested in participating, please send an email to cmartell@Echelon.com.