This is a guest post written by Jocelyn Brown - freelance technology writer specializing in home and business solutions and developments.
The appeal of the Internet of Things (IoT) comes from the ability to control your home or business from afar. When being sold to people who can afford it, the sales pitch paints a picture of a homeowner about to drive home.
Before setting off, they go on their phone or tablet computer and set the lighting, they preheat the oven, and in winter, put the heating on. Other devices allow a homeowner to turn on their security lights when out for dinner after sensors at home notice someone on the property. They could even answer a doorbell remotely via a phone and a speaker. Of these ideas and devices, one of the biggest associations is between the IoT and LED light bulbs.
LEDs are flexible, low cost, environmentally friendly, and can be used in so many more ways than traditional bulbs. The question which now arises is how to take a step beyond simple lighting to IoT controlled lighting, then beyond that to augmented lighting. What else is it possible to do with LED lights within an IoT application framework? The answer is simple but comes in the form of another question:
What is the limit of your imagination?
There is a rich seam of application potential for public lighting. The basics run much the same as home or business lighting - remote controlled, flexible lighting systems for turning lights on or off, and dimming them. However, some potential is being explored as to brighten lights around the scene of an accident- surely there is scope therefore for an application which links an authority’s lighting control with first responders and emergency services.
Furthermore, LED circuit lights have the potential to team up with IoT for a range of monitoring activities. Some of these could be broadly welcomed by residents such as wildlife monitoring with responsive lights to give birds and other animals some respite in the dead of the night or to monitor urban air quality. However, others may make residents think of 1984 with small cameras linked to the light circuits to monitor people’s activities, car break-ins and thefts, and illegal parking. The latter is an application being developed by Siemens.
In central India, local communities have long tried to co-exist with migrating elephant families. Despite their best efforts, growing populations accidentally infringe upon the migratory routes and territories of the elephants. This has led to numerous deaths, mostly of humans, but also some elephants as they get in the way of each other. In response, LED warning lights are being installed on monitoring posts at set distances along known migratory routes - luckily Elephants are creatures of habit. These are connected to smartphones and observers can activate the lights to warn people of approaching elephants.
These applications can be both business and residential ideas. As noted above, the main focus of most app developers is on a home lighting control system which is also linked to garage doors, the thermostat, the oven, TV and so on.
How about we move beyond this? For example, how frustrating is it that we only know a bulb is broken when we turn it on? Well, with the IoT every light fitting can be accessed individually, making it possible for faults in the system to be flagged in advance. Furthermore, lights can be linked directly to smoke alarms. Google recently spent $3.2 billion on Nest Protect (smoke and carbon monoxide alarm), after which Philips designed a LED lamp which will flash if the fire alarm is triggered. It can also be set up to go off if an intruder is detected.
The IoT is a big thing in business right now. A major worry about technological developments is their impact on the working lives of ordinary people across the world. As with homes and community lighting, businesses which combine IoT with LED lighting are better able to control how their businesses are lit while saving money on utility bills. Furthermore, effective lighting at night is known to help reduce crime. Most businesses just leave random lights on to give the impression of workers being there, however by combining the two technologies it is possible to simulate workers more effectively by turning some lights on and others off during the night rather than by having static lighting.
Connecting LED bulbs with IoT brings new opportunities to bring new capabilities to the business and everyday life, with a simple interface. What do you think about those ideas?