Smart lighting: 'security issues will rise when prices drop'

Tapping in to the internet of things will bring security and interference issues for lighting, but the threat needs to be put into perspective, said panellists at the Smart Lighting Controls Europe conference last week.

Asked whether any actual damage would be done if a smart lighting system was hacked, Geoff Archenhold of Integrated System Technologies said: ‘The internet of things hasn’t even come yet. We will see a drastic drop in the price of smart systems soon, and everything that happens to other technology will happen to us then.’

Archenhold added: ‘The most disruptive thing you could do would be to cause business and commercial damage, getting people running around the installation trying to fix something that doesn’t need to be fixed. Imagine how much money that could cost down the supply line if it was in a hospital, having to alert people that the system might have been compromised – I think it can do serious damage.’

Other panellists pointed out that security risks have always existed, but that they can often be combatted quite simply. David Lippold of LiteIP said: ‘Loads of buildings are managed with handsets you can hack, security concerns are nothing new. You don’t need a wireless connection to sabotage a system.’

Wayne Howell, owner of lighting controls company Artistic Licence, said: 'You have to put these things into perspective. The problem is often solved by setting the password to something other than "password".'

Archenhold hinted that interference could become an issue with connected lighting systems. ‘Wireless congestion is a well-known problem in the IT world. If we look at the latest Wi-Fi routers, they’ve now had to go to a 5gHz band instead of 2.4 which is slowing down because it is being used by too many objects and devices. As an industry we need to understand which protocols are going to receive interference.’

When the audience was asked for examples of lighting controls systems being compromised, only one example came up: a story of a disgruntled ex-employee using the telephone control option to 'hack' into a building's lighting system by calling in from outside. Clearly even low-tech systems can be vulnerable to cybercrime.

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