IN AN UNMARKED concrete warehouse on a dusty industrial zone by the side of Interstate 275 in Florida lurks one of the lighting industry’s most remarkable facilities.
Inside, six white robots continuously patrol the cavernous black space, monotonously and mesmerisingly following white lines painted on the floor. Mounted above them are 450 of what look like ordinary LED light panels.
But these lights, mounted on 50 two-and-half metre high test rigs, are probably the most analysed fixtures on the planet.
A team of six engineers conduct round-the-clock tests on the units, measuring 3,400 individual data points. This year alone, they’ve taken 150,000,000 readings.
This extraordinary building, at an undisclosed address, is where the internet-connected future of lighting is being created.
Welcome to what’s modestly called the Test Centre, a lighting laboratory for IoT specialist Gooee. It’s essentially a fully automated evaluation of wireless mesh control and sensing for lighting.
‘We believe it’s the only one of its type and scale in the world,’ says chief technology officer and Gooee co-founder Simon Coombes.
Established in 2017, the US$1 million (€800,000, £700,000) installation uses six miles of cabling to conduct over 500 different tests on the lights and their various controls platforms.
‘You can’t be serious about IoT lighting if you don’t have a set-up like this,’ says Coombes. ‘We’ve developed some pretty critical features as a result of the real-world testing we’ve done here’.
The idea is to test the combination of hardware, software and firmware at scale so that bugs are ironed out before the lighting gets into a customer’s hands. A major bug is latency - the lag between command and action – and Gooee’s tech team is obsessive about working out ways to remove milliseconds of delay in lighting control.
And the robots? Their job is to generate real-world motion data, so that tests – such as firmware upgrades – happen smoothly while sensors are sucking up data to the cloud.
It’s not just Gooee hardware that gets tested here. Luminaire makers who have signed up to Gooee’s partnership programme have their kit evaluated here too, as do end-user customers such as retail and hospitality chains exploring using IoT lighting on their estate.
While Coombes’ statement that real-world testing at scale is a necessity is an obvious truth, the centre, and more specifically, its revelation to the wider world, is a demonstration of Gooee’s conviction that IoT will explode in the coming years.
What’s striking is the both the size of the investment and the time horizon - both unthinkable by traditional industry metrics. Additionally, the scale, working culture and language of both the test centre and Gooee’s coding operation in nearby St Petersburg will be alien to those schooled on lighting industry conventions. After all, not many lighting execs conduct their business in hipster coffee shops or – literally – have beer on tap for their workforce.
But it’s a world that IoT evangelists say we need to embrace – and quickly – if we are to escape the relentless commoditisation and falling prices of LED luminaires. The unsmart ones, that is.
INSIDE THE TEST LAB:
- Lux’s Property Technology conference will focus on lighting. It takes place on Wednesday 13 November and Thursday 14 November 2018 alongside the LuxLive 2018 at ExCeL London. More information HERE.