Network connectivity and intelligence integrated into LED-based luminaires form the backbone of smart buildings and cities, and make the Internet of Things (IoT) vision feasible. Lighting in Design spoke to BEKA Schréder’s Daniel Kasper, Product Development Manager, and Grant Combrink, Marketing Manager, about how smart lighting is infiltrating South Africa beyond smart homes and the latest commercial developments.

The future for smart street lighting

“What is important to us is the product itself – there are a lot of the buzzwords to do with connectivity, but you can’t connect something to nothing. Our main focus is the product, because ultimately, we want users to manage our products the best they can from a performance, energy and monitoring point-of-view,” says Combrink.

“In terms of smart lighting, a product can be ‘basic’ smart or it can be very complex and sophisticated,” explains Kasper. He believes that – at this point – we are still at the early stages of smart lighting, commonly referred to as ‘remote management’, i.e. the remote control of a light. BEKA Schréder’s work in remote management began in 2008 when the first management system was deployed, but, as with any other new device, Kasper believes that smart lighting will only get traction when it offers substantial benefits to the end-user while being easily integrated to the existing IoT platform.

Combrink thinks the smart home bubble first has to burst for smart lighting to filter down to other sectors. “You can find smart lighting online these days. Once smart lighting in the home has become the norm it will start filtering through in the market and, when it becomes successful, it will become a demand in other segments very quickly. The preparation for that is already happening in the background,” he says.

Kasper adds, “In the commercial sector, smart lighting has a fair bit of traction because it pays off quite quickly and adds value to building management. Where I see the change for street lighting is when municipalities start to outsource the maintenance of luminaires. As soon as that happens, the companies performing the maintenance will be very interested in recovering a return on their investment as quickly as possible”.

The future of smart lighting

“Currently, there are too many configurations of luminaires and customers don’t know which configuration to choose,” says Kasper. “I see smart lighting simplifying things. A self-adjusting luminaire will allow users to have one type of configuration – the luminaire will be smart enough to adjust itself in respect of colour temperature, photometry and light intensity on site.

“BEKA Schréder manufactures luminaires to be as ‘plug-and-play’ as possible, with configuration, commissioning and training as part of the package, along with connectivity to a third party,” says Combrink, noting that with new technologies come requirements for different skillsets. “You need data analysis, network understanding, and so on, so it’s an upskill to other technologies.” He foresees that data and analytics will become imperative for end users. “The maintenance aspect of street lighting is going to shift; maintenance teams will be data collectors added to their current role”

With technology changing so quickly, there is a possibility that luminaires could analyse data through video. “This will be different to what we currently use video streaming for,” says Kasper.

“The luminaire will analyse the video footage ‘on-board’ data and determine which scenario to report, i.e. report traffic accidents and crimes.” He also believes that energy saving will continuously improve with LEDs and, as a result, the load demand of street lighting will be much less than what it is now. “I also think we will see more dynamic street lighting, with different colour temperatures to suit different applications.”

Is Africa ready for smart lighting?

One of the biggest remote monitoring projects BEKA Schréder is currently working on is the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route through Kempton Park. The company has already supplied 1300 luminaires, with the second phase taking this figure to around 3000.

The main reason for not experiencing a major roll-out of smart luminaires in South Africa and abroad relates to financial reasons. The technology is ready and can be deployed almost anywhere in Africa. “People don’t do long term cost of owner- ship calculations; they look at short term costs,” says Kasper. “Every municipality to which we present this technology is very interested and would like to deploy management systems within their district. Luminaires will become smarter and, with electronics becoming cheaper, in a few years we will have luminaires that have all the hardware installed to be smart. This ‘smartness’, if I can call it that, will then only add a small percentage to the total cost of the standard version and just requires to be activated once required.” These added costs come with a host of advantages. “For me, the benefits are that you increase service delivery by providing light with no, or limited, downtime and, aligned with a reduction in energy consumption, resulting in a reduced CO footprint,” explains Combrink.

Future risks that need to be considered centre around the issue of connectivity. “If hackers manage to hack into city infrastructure they can cause a lot of damage. For us this risk is managed and reduced by integrating the highest levels of cyber security and continuously upgrading to prevent any unauthorised access,” concludes Kasper.

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