26 ELECTRICALCONTRACTOR | APR. 16 | WWW.ECMAG.COM
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Atlanta-based Acuity’s vice president of Io T products. He said
the company is learning that the applications for such interior
geolocation systems might be much broader than those for such
outdoor directional aids as Google Maps.
“A lot of the initial theories were focused on the idea that
there’s a blue dot on the map,” he said.
This concept is not dissimilar from what one might find
on a typical outdoor GPS application. However, retailers have
come to see value in location-specific content, which could
be delivered during a shopping trip or after, that is related to
products a VLC system has identified to be of interest to specific customers.
“There is great interest in leveraging location-specific content to educate the consumer [like] a lot of the content you
might find on a website like Amazon.com,” Ryan said.
Of course, Acuity Brands isn’t alone in pursuing these
opportunities. For example, Philips Lighting has run a well-publicized pilot installation at a branch of Carrefour (France’s
answer to a Super Walmart) for more than six months. According to Philips spokesperson Jonathan Weinert, the company
has a number of projects deployed or in development for other
European customers, though information on possible U.S.
installations is still under wraps.
Unlike Acuity’s BLE-enabled system, Philips’ approach
relies entirely on a line-of-sight connection with a customer’s
phone, which could be particularly effective, as the company
now has a patent pending for its method of encoding the data
transmitted in LED light waves.
More than just providing a vehicle for in-store directions
and promotions, Weinert sees such installations as a research
tool for retailers. Marketing departments can aggregate anonymous data from hundreds or thousands of shoppers to create
“Indoor positioning systems have a dual objective: to support location-based services on the one hand and to learn about
customer behavior on the other,” he said. “Anonymous data of
special interest to retailers includes customer routing through
the store, dwell times per visit and at specific locations … and
statistics on requests for help from sales associates.”
Networking in the great outdoors
VLC is less useful in exterior lighting applications because
there’s too much competing, uncontrolled light in the environment. However, manufacturers still see tremendous
opportunity in working with the enormous number of roadway
and area fixtures installed across the United States, especially
as many municipalities now are undertaking large-scale LED
upgrade programs. Building value-added security and networking capabilities into new products can mean higher near-term
sales and the possibility of an ongoing income stream providing
monitoring and other services for municipal customers.
In these applications, the fixtures become a platform—in
both a literal and figurative sense—for mounting cameras and
other sensors, along with communications equipment, to create
networks for surveillance and other security functions, among
other uses. Among the fastest growing sensor options in this
category is gunshot detection. Hubbell Lighting’s Spaulding
Lighting division launched a version of its Cimarron fixture
equipped with an Internet-protocol (IP) camera and gunshot
detection (in partnership with TOTUS Solutions) in late 2014.
“It really becomes a platform to all our customers to do what
would never have been possible to do five to 10 years ago,” said
Andy Miles, director of product marketing for Hubbell Light-
ing’s outdoor offerings in Greenville, S.C. “It brings a solution
in a single offering that would have required multiple products
and vendors, previously.”
LEDs’ controllability provides additional advantages to
security applications, enabling a capability Hubbell calls “active
deterrence.” Fixtures equipped with IP cameras can respond
with rapid, even strobing flashes to drive intruders away and
direct first responders. In addition, IP cameras can gather
visual data that can be analyzed to better understand opera-
tional issues, such as people and vehicle traffic patterns.
This kind of analytics is at the heart of an effort GE Lighting
recently piloted in Jacksonville, Fla., and San Diego, dubbed
GE’s “Intelligent Cities” initiative. A commercial launch of
compatible area and roadway fixtures, along with cloud-based
intelligence, could be used to enable such future app-based
services as identifying parking-space availability and traffic
monitoring and rerouting.
“City planners today struggle with getting data on origina-
tions and destinations,” said Austin Ashe, GE’s Intelligent Cities
product manager, Cleveland. “It’s very expensive. This is the
kind of data they’ll be able to get instantly. To be able to cali-
brate the speed of every road, block by block, can help cities
become more efficient.”
However, GE isn’t planning to develop all these capabilities
on its own. Instead, the company is modeling its program on the
one used by Apple and its app-development community. Just as
Apple has flourished as it has evolved from a closed-system hard-
ware maker into an open-system development community, Ashe
said GE is looking more at services and less at individual parts
and pieces as it charts the future for its outdoor lighting offerings.
“Where we want to go, it’s not just about the sensors in the
streetlight,” Ashe said. “It’s about building an ecosystem of
partners we can leverage.”
RO SS is a freelance writer located in Brewster, Mass. He can be
reached at email@example.com.
“Indoor positioning systems have a dual
objective: to support location-based
services on the one hand and to learn
about customer behavior on the other.”
—Jonathan Weinert, Philips Lighting