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Light-as-a-Service: Why IT and Lighting Will Converge

After witnessing a live demo of the PoE-powered, iphone-controlled LED lights in the EnergyWise pavilion at Cisco Live, the IT manager for a well-known auto maker approached Chris Isaacson, CEO of NuLEDs. He asked one question: “How many colors does the fixture support?” Chris’s reply echoed Henry Ford’s famous quote in his 1927 autobiography, “You can have any color as long as it’s in the visible spectrum.”

The marriage of microprocessors with legacy products will create new products, solutions and markets. The work of partners in the Cisco EnergyWise pavilion at CiscoLive San Diego highlights this well. Though not all 17,000 Cisco Live attendees visited the EnergyWise Pavilion, those who did witnessed a world in transition. What they saw were possibilities for light-as-a-service and many other network services currently in market incubation. They also observed a number of solutions that are fully baked and ready for prime time deployment.

New Mashups Drive New Solutions

The EnergyWise Pavilion (and EnergyWise Techncial Solutions Clinic) was created to show what’s possible when network software is combined with the creativity of Cisco technology partners. Using the EnergyWise protocol to connect, collect and control devices, nearly 20 companies demonstrated how their products can create richer services when they work together. The pavilion included Cisco switches, routers, IP phones, access points, digital signage, and other Cisco gear as well as EnergyWise-enabled devices like laptops, printers, LED multicolor fixtures, BMS gateways, PDUs, power meters, and more. Companies with products and demos in the booths included, CA, Commscope, CyberSwitching, Eaton, Field Server, Joulex, Industry Weapon, iSockets, Lenovo, NuLEDs, Raritan, Schneider Electric, Servertech, Verdiem, WTI, and Xerox. Though not all the solutions captured the attendees’ imagination the same way as the multicolor LEDs, they are all built to make it possible for IT and facilities to do their jobs better, faster and cheaper; they will drive change.

It has taken nearly 130 years for Thomas Edison’s light bulb to join forces with Morse and Vail’s telegraph to create intelligent lighting. The next few years will mark an exciting chapter in the convergence of disparate systems within commercial buildings. Network powered and controlled lights enable building operators to use lights only when they’re needed. Individual light control allows users to create scenes that match their personal preferences and mood. Network powered LEDs can be added, moved, and changed like other network devices—that is to say—simply. Network attached LEDs can be used to create pathway lighting to help guide building, hospital, and school visitors to their meeting location.

Imagine a physician walking into a hospital lobby and having a lighting app tell him or her to follow the orange light (or any color for that matter—maybe the physician has a personal light avatar). The LEDs contain a multicolor fixture that turns orange and might flash at a preferred rate. Using the physician’s location from the smart phone, nearby lights on the path to the patient also light with an orange glow.

Imagine a similar app for a grocery store.  Maybe it’s called the “slow husband helper” (I could definitely use this).  My wife could enter a shopping list on my electronic cart.  When I reach the store, the store recognizes my iPhone phone  app and tells me to follow the blue lights.  At each grocery item location, the light blinks and the app tells me where to look on the shelf and provides a photo of the product package.   I shake the phone to tell the store light controller that I have the product and can move to the next item.  The app might also tell me that shoppers who purchased similar products also bought “X”.  The possibilities for cross selling are endless.  But the app would get me through the store more quickly while helping the store operator upsell and cross sell while rapidly turning parking spaces.

In a police station, network-attached lights can be easily backed up with a UPS.

In a large mining operation, LED lights can be used to provide light, but they can also change color to provide coded information to miners. Red means “get out now!” The color is generated by a policy engine connected to a “canary” sensor. When multiple exits exist, the lights can flash like airport landing lights to show the preferred and quickest way to safety.

The use cases for light-as-a-service are limitless—that’s why lighting and IT will converge. Though many of these solutions may appear unconventional, remember that all mainstream products and solutions started life as unconventional thinking. For those IT professionals paying attention, this transition will provide them with a chance to create new user services, save money, grow skills and generally increase their value and contributions to their organizations. This continues to be an exciting time to work in IT.

Over the next several months I’ll share more details about these solutions and explain how you can implement them to save money. For now, if you didn’t have a chance to see the Cisco EnergyWise Pavilion at Cisco Live, check out these videos by NuLEDs and Joulex.

To our partners and team, Thank You! for making the show a success.  We couldn’t have done it alone.  Luis Suau, thank you again for making the vision real.

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Visit Google books for the original Ford quote.

The telegraph was created through work of many inventors around the globe.  The first commercial success is attributed to Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail.  You can read more about the electrical telegraph on wikipedia.

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