Lighting Research Center Expands SSL Research Capabilities to Connected Lighting



In a 25,000-square-foot commercial office on the Rensselaer Technology Park campus in Troy, N.Y., scientists from the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are making plans to install LED lighting with fixture-integrated and network-connected lighting controls. The controls are being tested in a broad-based field evaluation to compare and quantify the additional benefits that connected lighting systems offer to users. LRC research scientists will investigate everything from ease of installation to user satisfaction.

Connected lighting is defined as the connection of lighting, controls and sensors to a local network that can be monitored and controlled, either wired or wirelessly, through a dashboard accessed by a computer, tablet or smartphone. The lighting system may or may not be connected with other building systems, such as HVAC and security systems. With connected lighting, the lighting system is automated based on predetermined conditions, such as those defined by timers, and on sensing information, such as that gathered by occupant and daylight sensors. While these devices have existed for some time, until now there was no way to remotely control and override the commissioned settings on the fly for one fixture at a time.

Connected lighting systems are new and still evolving, and as such are mostly untested and have not been compared in the field with traditional lighting controls including autonomous fixture-integrated sensors. This has prompted the LRC with support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to evaluate how this networked technology might work in the real world. In this two-year project, the LRC SSL team will evaluate what types of networked and fixture-integrated systems work best for different types of spaces and will produce results and best practices guides for both purchasers and manufacturers.

Another potential feature of connected lighting that the LRC is exploring is the ability for remote monitoring, whereby data is gathered to monitor the “health” of the lighting system. Such capabilities provide building managers with the benefit of early warnings that allow for timely scheduling of maintenance and replacement of lighting fixtures, avoiding burned out lighting that can leave negative effects and impressions. Since last year the LRC has been investigating a methodology that allows for the real-time prognostic health monitoring of an LED lighting system using wireless data transfer to a smart device. The study aims to validate a data-driven approach that utilizes current and historical data statistically and probabilistically to detect anomalies in product behavior and estimate the remaining useful life of a lamp or device. This includes analyzing wireless methods that can best communicate and map luminaire location, and determining sensor communication protocol requirements for reliable transmission of sensor data to a monitoring system.

Beyond illumination control and monitoring, connected lighting systems can be used to gather data about anything that can be sensed, from energy usage to occupancy to ambient temperature. The lighting fixtures become the infrastructure carrier for the non-lighting-related sensors, and the data gathered is provided through the same monitoring dashboard.