Greg Carter senior vice president, connected buildings technologies, Acuity Brands
Heather Milcarek head of professional channel marketing, Signify
Jason Oliver vice president of controls, RAB Lighting
Clayton Smith director of business development, C&I distributor sales, Hubbell Lighting

Over the next five to 10 years, growth in general lighting products will remain flat, but LED lighting products are expected to experience promising growth, especially with the commercialization of smart lighting systems. The thriving market for connected lighting offers many opportunities, not only for the lighting industry, but also for the development of smart homes, smart buildings and smart cities.

The global market for smart and connected lighting used in commercial applications is expected to grow from $7.2 billion in 2018 to about $21 billion in 2022, according to IHS Markit, a leading source of information, insight and analytics in critical areas that shape today’s technology ecosystem. Ultimately, this means IMARK members have a tremendous opportunity to deliver new value to customers embarking on the shift to connected lighting systems. Following, four IMARK suppliers provide indispensable advice for helping customers navigate the intelligent lighting journey.

IMARK Now: Please provide your definition of connected lighting.

Greg Carter, senior vice president, connected buildings technologies, Acuity Brands: Connected lighting is the future of lighting. It’s grid, powered by technologically-enhanced luminaires, forms a digital network across the building. The digital technologies often include sensors, drives, beacons, wired or wireless capabilities and others that when connected support monitoring, lighting control and passing data between systems, devices and the cloud. The new, energy-efficient lighting infrastructure can be easily upgraded, updated and augmented as it funds services such as asset tracking, wayfinding/navigation or streamlined operations to drive new experiences for occupants. Ultimately, it creates an asset from a space often viewed as a cost center that drives the future of modern business.

Jason Oliver, vice president of Lightcloud, RAB Lighting: Connected lighting is a platform to make spaces function better for the users and managers of those spaces. It starts with ensuring proper light levels, reducing energy costs and giving remote access, but that’s just the beginning.

Heather Milcarek, head of professional channel marketing, Signify: Connected lighting systems combine light points and lighting controls with sensors and data to deliver value in new ways. But beyond connecting hardware and software, we think of it in terms of how lighting connects to people—how it affects the way we feel, function and experience the world around us. Lighting is a ubiquitous and powered fixture everywhere people live, work, play and interact. By connecting lighting, it becomes a conduit to exciting new services, optimized by data and automation, which can help increase operational efficiency, enhance productivity and save energy.


Clayton Smith, director of business development, C&I distributor sales, Hubbell Lighting: Simple, scalable lighting systems that optimize energy efficiency, integrate seamlessly with other aspects of a facility’s operation and coordinate with other building applications. This “intelligent network” of lighting fixtures and controls reduces operating costs, while increasing comfort and enhancing the occupant experience for various indoor and outdoor applications.

IMARK Now: How would you describe customer adoption of these techniques?

Carter: Connected building technologies are being adopted everywhere, but different verticals are in distinct stages. The technology evolution can start from good enough (hyper-focused on energy savings) to just enough (energy savings plus lighting controls and some visualization) and finally, to future-proofed. Future-proofed buildings include the prior enhancements but reduce commissioning 30 percent by the addition of advanced controls and drive data capture from Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities. Conversely, this can be viewed as a progression from disconnected buildings to connected buildings—and finally to connected businesses.

The retail and airport verticals are leading the way, using these technologies to improve business processes, employee efficiency, shopper/traveler experience and marketing analytics. Once the rich data from occupants and the space starts rolling in, the conversation quickly progresses to “what else can we do.”

IMARK Now: Do you envision a future in which nearly every LED fixture sold includes the sensors to enable connected lighting if desired?

Oliver: It’s already starting to happen. As the technologies mature, the capabilities increase and the costs decrease making it affordable enough to put the technology into every fixture. Moving forward, the real question is the types of sensors and capabilities that will end up in the fixtures.


IMARK Now: Can you provide one or more examples of facilities that have installed connected lighting? What kind of benefits are they achieving?

Smith: We were brought in to help develop a wireless control solution for a 30-acre automotive dealership. The lighting team chose our wiSCAPE wireless outdoor lighting control system to create and control the lighting scenes. The installation was non-invasive and non-disruptive, avoiding both a lengthy wiring process and installing relay panels. The wiSCAPE Express software platform is being used to configure, control, monitor and meter the facility’s lighting systems. This software has a familiar graphical user interface, which empowers facility managers with real-time monitoring including instant alarm notifications about outages, as well as increased energy efficiency and maintenance operations—all from a smartphone or tablet. The dealership can now dim all fixtures for closed business hours, rather than turning off most of the fixture poles, resulting in much better uniformity after hours. When the dealership is closed, the front row is dimmed to 30 percent and the interior rows are dimmed to 20 percent. wiSCAPE also fades slowly to make the change less noticeable. It is estimated the total reduction in energy use will be 74 percent when it is cut more than 1.5M kWh per year. Added to this figure is an annual maintenance savings of $11,988. In sum, the payback period is 3.4 years and the internal rate of return is 33 percent.

Oliver: Lightcloud was designed to scale for any application, and we’ve managed really great adoption at every size and customer type. We have some small offices and parking lots with less than a dozen zones and we have large industrial customers with thousands of zones spread over several square miles. But the majority are medium-sized businesses. The benefits really vary by application and goals, but we’ve seen fantastic results. We’ve had industrial sites reduce their energy bill by $100,000/month. Smaller sites have installed Lightcloud just for the opportunity to control the system remotely and grant accounts with variable user permissions. These sites have saved hundreds of man hours per year by not needing to physically be at a location to turn lights on. A lot of sites appreciate the added safety of knowing their lighting is functioning properly and getting an alert when there’s an issue.

Milcarek: One of the biggest successes we have had so far has been in classrooms. Many are outfitted with lamps that are controlled by the traditional, on/off switch in the room. By contrast, our connected system is controllable through a connected switch with specific zones for scene setting. For example, during study time, a teacher can select the appropriate brightness to help students focus during a test or presentation. Teachers can calm down the room during lunch by dimming to a warmer scene. It’s flexible, adaptable and most importantly, the quality of light is better for students which can help promote productivity and a general sense of well-being while at school.

Carter: Hartsfield Jackson International Airport and a number of large U.S.-based retailers are experiencing benefits such as energy savings, remote monitoring of standard and emergency lighting infrastructure, occupancy data and asset location tracking. Additionally, many are also utilizing the analytics on movement and dwell time of people or highvalue assets as well as incorporating personal navigation with mobile devices.

IMARK Now: Generally speaking, what do customers like most about connected lighting? Can you provide examples of the types of data they want to gather?

Milcarek: Connected lighting is a critical component in improving our every day. It makes our offices more productive, businesses more profitable, cities safer and ultimately, people’s lives healthier. Whether for entertainment during concerts, fostering community pride across a city’s bridges or highlighting monuments during major events, Signify has dedicated teams working with customers to deliver value through connected light systems in whatever form that additive benefit takes—from bioadaptive solutions that promote wellness and productivity to dashboards and systems that help optimize energy expenditure and meet sustainability goals.

The value in the data collected is measured by the insights they reveal. For example, data about occupancy patterns and traffic flow in an office building can be used to optimize space utilization. Or data around lighting outages can help improve maintenance schedules and even be used to help predict outages before they happen.


IMARK Now: What do customers/prospects like least about connected lighting or what key concerns do they have? Can you provide a ‘cautionary tale’ of what can go wrong based on inexperience?

Oliver: One of the big concerns our customers have is security. We expected that and built a tremendous number of safeguards, including getting the UL2900 cyber-security certification. Most importantly, we operate completely independently of customers’ computer networks, which limits security concerns by eliminating the risk of using lighting as a backdoor into the larger IT network.

A common problem we see are dimmers overriding occupancy sensors in a room, mixing manual controls with automatic controls. We have simple methods to correct for this, but customers who try to configure the system themselves often overlook this and get frustrated. That’s why we include remote diagnostics with our system, so when this type of issue does arise we’re able to fix it immediately.

Carter: Connected lighting demands an understanding of the codes that guide lighting and the building infrastructure. Additionally, enabling an LED luminaire with beacons/sensors and dual-band radios without a profound understanding of lighting engineering concepts such as power balance can impact the life of an LED. The sensors could be powered by the light, but the sensor’s power would need to be balanced as to not diminish the return on investment from energy savings or the life of the LED luminaire. Acuity Brands’ IoT technology solutions leverage the power grid from light fixtures, thus mitigating all the battery and fleet management issues that beacon companies face in scaling their solution over time. Although battery-powered BLE beacons are easy in test mode, over time the batteries drain; the beacon’s signal strength weakens. The subsequent BLE network using standalone beacons are hard to manage and scale.

Another example pertains to the light quality of the luminaire. Without understanding the luminaire, a vendor may compromise on light quality; the customer may see a lower upfront cost, but then need to install more lights to get adequate light in a building. They could end up with a higher installation cost or lights that do not satisfy the code requirements of the space. Another consideration from a newly-established vendor would be management or replacement of the luminaires or lights over time; replacement parts could be needed from a product with unknown quality parameters or a vendor with a short duration in business.

Additionally, installing connected lighting means integrating across business siloes (such as the facility manager/operations, IT and marketing or store experience) on the retrofit or installation bid to achieve the highest ROI for a connected building space. Acuity Brands’ sweet spot is understanding the customer’s needs or insights. We take a partner approach with our customers to help them solve their business problems. An example of this in action is the creation of an intelligent building infrastructure across a space, which would yield real-time data to drive energy savings for the facility, asset performance management for operations and insights about customers and IT services. The IT services and end-user experience areas are where businesses can really drive ahead of their competition, creating an asset out of a cost center.

Smith: Deciding which system is best for the application can be overwhelming and interoperability of different building systems can be confusing. Cost can also be a factor. Since intelligent systems cost more than traditional lighting, it’s important to consider carefully initial cost verses long-term costs. Foregoing lighting controls of any kind may save initial cost, but over the life of the building, networked lighting controls save such significant energy, the system has a total return on investment as short as 12 months. Lighting controls may also be required by local or state-wide energy codes. Also, consider the people who work at a facility; while it may be difficult to assign a monetary value to usefulness and overall satisfaction, these are important aspects of a well-executed lighting system.

IMARK Now: What are attributes of an electrical/lighting distributor that can excel in the sales and marketing of connected lighting?

Smith: Distributors understand the unique needs of the local customer and specific energy codes that shape lighting solutions. The language and methodology for specifying lighting projects has evolved and implementing LED and controls products is not a one-size-fits-all experience. There’s tremendous value in having localized expertise.

Oliver: A lot of contractors have limited familiarity with controls, so the distributor is often the point of contact for educating the contractors. Distributors that take a little bit of time to learn about connected lighting or partner with us to host training sessions are having great success. Also, just using it themselves is the best sales approach.

Milcarek: Distributors have a distinct opportunity to help their customers navigate the gradual shift to connected lighting systems. By staying up to speed on the latest technologies, products and features available, distributors can deliver value to their customers by making it simple to purchase, manage and reap the benefits that connected lighting delivers across projects of any scale.

Jennifer KohlheppManaging Editor