Terms like ‘connected lighting’, ‘intelligent lighting’, and ‘Internet of Light’ are becoming mainstream as the lighting industry moves more and more towards adding connectivity to LED-based solutions. And rightfully so, since connected lighting offers exciting new opportunities in various lighting fields. With all the attention directed towards connected lighting, one wonders whether there is still a future for ‘unconnected lighting’. This article aims to explain the concept and advantages of connected lighting, highlighting certain conditions and roadblocks, while making the case that for the short – and medium term – ‘unconnected lighting’ offers many benefits to major parts of the market.

IoT and connected lighting

With the Internet of Things, data is generated by a device (i.e. a ‘thing’). Transfer of data is between ‘things’ with embedded sensors and a central system that collects and organises the data from the sensors. The IoT creates enhanced efficiencies of systems and processes that benefit humans, the spaces we live and work in, the environment, and more.

Connected Lighting

We are at the early stage of what the IoT will enable; we see just a fraction of potential applications. The IoT has been labelled ‘the next industrial revolution’.

To describe connected lighting in simple terms: it is a lighting device connected to the internet. As lighting is present not only in buildings and houses, but in cities as well, it is the perfect ‘vehicle’ for collecting data. Sensors embedded in luminaires or lamps make each light point a data node on the network.

Benefits of connected lighting

The lighting industry has for a long time been able to connect lighting devices and sensors to one another, for example, in an office as part of a Building Management System. These systems allow for control and management of the lighting while also gathering important information on energy-usage, for example.

The scope of Building Management Systems is not only lighting, but also security, air handling, energy usage and so on. In ‘traditional’ BMSs there is little or no interaction between these technologies as they operate more or less in ‘silos’. With the rise of the IoT, all devices in an office are connected to the internet and data can flow from one device to another. This opens up exciting new opportunities to translate the data into information with tangible benefits.

As mentioned earlier, we are still in the early stages of the IoT and connected lighting, but we can already clearly see the benefits of implementing connected lighting. These benefits differ according to the main application. For office use the main benefits are:

  • Providing insight to facility managers around work- space occupancy; allowing them to maximise space utilisation and save on real estate costs.

  • Accurate information on energy-usage.

  • Personalised lighting in employee workspaces, or in meeting rooms, to ensure the right lighting for the task at hand.

With the evolvement of the IoT we can expect the benefits of connected lighting to grow and more benefits to be added. It will be like the internet where, over time, new applications developed and resulted in the rise of whole new industries and companies.

‘Connected lighting’ versus ‘unconnected lighting’

Given all the benefits of connected lighting, a logical question is whether there is still space for ‘unconnected lighting’. We defined connected lighting as 'lighting devices connected to the internet’, so a logical definition of unconnected lighting would be ‘lighting devices not connected to the internet’. But unconnected lighting can still offer many benefits such as reduction of energy-use via concepts like daylight harvesting and presence detection, or increased comfort by controlling the lighting or setting scenes.

Let’s try to answer the question of whether there still is a future for unconnected lighting by taking another look at connected lighting.  

Insight into workspace use is an important benefit because modern office space is expensive and reducing the amount of square metres used immediately translates into cost savings. However, this benefit is relevant mainly to larger offices, where there is the possibility to reduce the space occupied,  for example, if a company occupies six floors in an  office tower and monitoring workspace use tells the facility manager that vacating one floor is a possibility – this generates a substantial saving. In small – and even medium-sized offices – this is often not possible as the physical set-up of the office does not allow for reduction of the space. At the same time, small and medium sized offices usually do not have a facility manager able to convert the data generated by connected lighting into information concerning efficient use of available space. In small and medium sized offices, the facility management task is often combined with other tasks and the person in the position is able to get a good impression of efficient use of space simply by walking around.

The other benefit of connected lighting, that of personalising the lighting of workspace or meeting rooms, also requires a practical perspective. Worldwide organisations are changing their offices to open plan, often with ‘hot desks’, meaning employees share a larger office space and often no longer have their own personal desks. This severely  limits the possibility of employees personalising their workspace lighting as the lighting is shared by many employees and there are potential conflicts (for instance, one employee may prefer warm white light while the person at the next desk prefers very cool white light).

Personalising the lighting in meeting rooms remains an option in modern offices but, to allow this, the lighting does not need to be connected as room-based controls have made this possible for many years.

Conditions of connected lighting

Compared to ‘unconnected lighting’ a lighting project based on connected lighting requires the following elements:

- A higher level of investment as there is a price premium for connected lighting.

- Resources to analyse and evaluate the data generated by the connected lighting, and translate the data into information.

- As the connected lighting system is linked to the internet, an information system, the system should be secured against hackers.

- The resources to install and maintain the connected lighting system.

Again, the conditions listed above point to larger scale projects with sufficient budget and resources to convert data into information, implement the required level of security and realise both the initial installation and the maintenance.

Looking specifically at the situation in South Africa (or Africa as a whole for that matter), available resources for installing and maintaining a connected lighting system can be a serious constraint. The number of companies and experts able to properly install and maintain a lighting controls installation is, unfortunately, rather limited. As connected lighting has additional challenges related to information technology, including security, only a few companies will be able to assist in connected lighting projects.  

What about ‘unconnected’ lighting?

Unconnected lighting is able to provide many of the benefits of connected lighting, without the need for analysing data and providing a high level of security, while both installation and maintenance are less complicated. Based on this, for the time being, unconnected lighting will remain an excellent proposition for smaller and medium-sized projects.

Unconnected lighting using so called ‘luminaire based controls’ especially are highly suitable for markets with limited specialised resources for installing sophisticated lighting systems, as the components like sensors or wireless devices are inside the luminaire. This means that an installer on site can install the luminaire like any regular luminaire as the luminaire producer has already taken care of specialised wiring or (part of) the programming.


Connected lighting, or the IoT, is an exciting proposition for the lighting industry and will grow in importance with the evolvement of the IoT. Based on the benefits at this point and the conditions for a successful implementation, it seems more geared for larger scale projects. Unconnected lighting (lighting not connected to the internet) offers tangible benefits while installation and maintenance are less demanding and hence, for the short and medium term, remains an interesting option for medium and smaller sized projects.

Examples of unconnected lighting

Luminaire based controls, where controls are built into the luminaire by the luminaire producer, offer the advantage that installation is simple as it requires no additional wiring and most if not all of the programming is done by the luminaire producer. Luminaire based movement sensors are popular in SouthAfrica and these are easily integrated into a luminaire.

Most sensors use Passive Infrared technology to detect motion. Sensors using ‘High Frequency’ or ‘Micro Wave’ technology are making inroads, as they can ‘see’ through plastic and are able to detect motion when built into a closed luminaire such as a vapour proof luminaire or a batten with a plastic cover. Adding modules able to communicate using

Bluetooth is another example of luminaire based controls. Again, there is no need for additional wiring. Control profiles are saved during the luminaire production stage. Users can choose whether to control the lighting via an app, phone, tablet or user interface.

Luminaires can be switched on and off, or be dimmed. Lighting scenes can be created as well and, in cases where Tunable White luminaires are used, the colour temperature can be changed to suit the user while, in direct/ indirect luminaires, the direct and indirect light content can simply be adjusted.

By Henk Rotman, Tridonic


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Gregg Cocking
Email: lighting@crown.co.za
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

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Carin Hannay
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Phone: +27 11 622-4770
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