The internet of things is lighting’s buzzword of the moment.
It describes what will happen when it’s no longer just computers and smartphones that are connected to the internet, but everything; including fridges, heart monitors and – you guessed it – lights.
It's easy to speculate about the potential of millions of internet-enabled lights, but actually making it happen is much harder. How do you connect the devices to the net? How do you make sure they speak the same language? Who’s going to crunch the data? And who’s going to pay for it?
Now a new tech business, Gooee, set up by the people behind luminaire maker Aurora, has set out a bold vision of how lighting will join the internet of things.
Gooee's plan, unveiled at last week’s Smart Lighting Controls Europe conference in London, is to manufacture millions of low-cost microchips and sensors (measuring things like light levels, occupancy, temperature and energy consumption), then build these into LED light engines, and get luminaire makers to start putting them into their products.
The key to making this possible has been pushing down the cost of putting sensing and connectiviity into lumninaires. Gooee says it has already made the big investments required to develop the technology, and rolling it out on a huge scale will keep the cost per unit low.
Beginning with Aurora and its retail lighting division Microlights, Gooee aims to get its technology incorporated into as many new LED luminaires as it can.
It wants to become the 'operating platform' on which numerous third parties can build their own smart lighting interfaces and apps - ann approach which contrasts with most of the connected lighting products we’ve seen so far, which only work with the control system supplied by their manufacturer. The Gooee ‘ecosystem’ (to adopt the term used by its makers), will be based on interoperability.
Data from Gooee-powered lights will be managed and analysed with the help of Evrythng, a company that’s already a big player in the nascent internet of things, helping manufacturers to link their products to smartphone apps and online services.
Light fittings will communicate over mains power lines with switches and smart hubs, which can then connect to the internet and to other devices using a variety of methods including Wi-Fi, Zigbee and Bluetooth.
"There is more value in the services that connected lighting products can produce, than in the objects themselves"
The dream is for luminaire makers to promote their own products as having ‘Gooee inside’, just as laptops from numerous manufacturers carry an ‘Intel Inside’ badge.
So what could you do with a Gooee-powered fitting? The first thing would be to intelligently control of your lights, using an app, from anywhere. You could also receive automated tips to reduce your energy consumption, or, in a retail setting, analyse the movement of people in your shop. And with Gooee encouraging third parties to create smart lighting apps, there will be plenty of uses that nobody has thought up yet.
Jon Couch, Aurora Group's technical director and a member of Gooee's advisory board, thinks the applications could go well beyond lighting. ‘What we're really offering is the ability to sense,' he said. 'We can collect data on anything, and the Gooee business model is that the data is owned by the customer, but if they want management of it, that can be done.'
Aurora’s chief marketing officer Neil Salt is convinced that adding intelligence to lights will transform the way the whole lighting industry works: ‘There is more value in the services these things [connected lighting products] can produce than in the objects themselves,’ he said. ‘If you have a mobile phone, you’re already experiencing this.’
Aurora has already said it plans to ‘smarten’ its M10 spotlight with Gooee, as well as a range of luminaires aimed at the professional market.
'Integrating Gooee’s operating platform is the most effective way to add intelligence to our product range,' said Neil Salt. 'The native integration of sensors and software enables us to offer services and functionality to our customers through data management, that has typically not been available from a lighting manufacturer.’