Digital Transformation Defined by Digital Ceilings

Smart phones … to retail environment.

Smart phones, Bluetooth® enabled devices, wayfinding and navigation - all key developments in technology that continue to significantly enhance our day-to-day ability to remain connected in a constantly evolving technical landscape.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionized the way we communicate and mine information. Today’s world has become a connected society in almost every facet of life. As a result, data is being collected, shared and used in new ways across networks and applications to make life simpler and better.

When it comes to smartphones, wearable devices and other tools, users see a natural progression in technology and tend to adapt and adopt relatively easily. Many industries are starting to make strides that can impact everything from general safety in a healthcare facility to efficiency gains within a commercial office or even personal shopping experiences in a retail environment.

The Lighting Industry Takes Center Stage

Like other technologies, the lighting industry is quickly evolving, departing from the analog world and jumping into the digital revolution. This “digital transformation” is very similar to the ones we have seen before with other industries, but this time may have even more positive ramifications on access to data.

Most businesses rely on lighting for simplistic light output overhead, and many have evolved their business fixtures to become more eco-friendly, especially as codes continue to evolve. Taking this a step further, lighting is quickly becoming what we refer to as a “constellation of networked satellites overhead,” generating, collecting and sharing information to solve known and unknown challenges and problems.

Codes First Approach

Many states continue to implement stronger regulatory codes and standards, such as DesignLights Consortium® (DLC) or Title 24. These codes are driving the adoption of advanced networked lighting controls, sensors, analytics and services, meaning established buildings are retrofitting their systems to accommodate and new buildings are specifying advanced solutions to get ahead of the curve with energy efficiency and top-of-the-line tech that will offer positive impact for the foreseeable future. As of February 2020, all states have adopted (with some exemptions) ASHRAE 90.1 2016.

How it Works

As lighting technology evolves, industry leaders like Universal Lighting Technologies (ULT) and Douglas Lighting Controls (DLC) are working to offer Intelligent connected lighting solutions and cutting-edge technology, marrying the best of both worlds. Together, both companies are North American high-volume manufacturers of digital lighting systems and components.

In keeping with the digital transformation, we now offer a Digital Ceilings product, composed of Intelligent Fixture Sensors (IFS) and Intelligent Fixture Controllers (IFC). Because overhead lighting is virtually everywhere, these fixtures serve up the perfect opportunity to utilize essential technology to power new devices and perform next level functions.

These fixtures rely on the power of wireless technology called Bluetooth LE (BLE) Mesh, are highly secure and flexible. BLE Mesh is the chosen network protocol for PLTA. This technology controls not only lighting, but also acts as a backhaul for data generated in the ceiling, while performing as an overhead beacon for Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS).

Smart Building Solutions

In most buildings the air conditioning, lights and other systems are set to turn on and off at the same time every day regardless of whether people are in the office or not. With a smart building optimized with a Digital Ceiling, all of these systems could stay turned off until a proximity sensor notices someone in the building. When this happens, the system can also trigger applications like security cameras, Wi-Fi access points, lights and AC to be turned on in that zone only, thus preserving energy throughout the space. Over time, the building can learn what normal usage patterns are and become increasingly predictable, adjusting based on smart data.

Timely, Transformative Solutions

To provide a solid example of how these systems work, consider a meeting taking place in a large space within an office building. These integrated systems can answer questions like “how many people were in each meeting?” or “when did this meeting finish up and participants began to exit the space?” These are questions that weren’t as important to society a few months ago, however with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the way businesses evaluate meeting crowds, spaces and protocol is changing rapidly.

Post-and-amid COVID-19, safe building re-entry is an extremely important topic, and smart lighting systems can be a key component in creating a more secure work environment. BLE radios in mobile phones alone are not able to track in a truly granular fashion. Properly placed, multiple-line powered beacons overhead are needed to deliver the meaningful accuracy and data that will benefit businesses when strategizing about safe re-entry.

These systems can perform the below functions that make a significant impact on safe re-entry:

  • Smart check-in and virtual queues with contact tracing
  • Monitor and enforce occupancy limits
  • Optimize and enforce navigation routes for distancing
  • Employee proximity alerts
  • Monitor space cleaning in real-time
  • Track visitor circulation and flows

With its already integrated nature, lighting is quickly becoming one of the key ways to implement new network infrastructure that will deliver end-to-end, multi-faceted solutions meaning more valuable data for users and efficiency for business owners.

Where Does it Work?

Because it is extremely flexible, Digital Ceiling technology is valuable to a variety of applications. Commercial workspaces are one of the most natural fits. For the past 10 years, the workforce has become more mobile, changing how office spaces are used. Historically, offices were divided up based on specific department titles, for example Marketing, Research & Development, etc., but now many are dividing their employees into workstream-based teams. With these changes, meeting spaces are more important now than ever to boost collaboration and productivity. Data being pulled directly from Digital Ceilings can provide Corporate Real Estate Professionals an accurate picture of foot traffic and room congestion to determine how many meeting spaces should be available or how large community spaces should be, aiding in redesign and layout of a space.

In addition to commercial office space, Digital Ceilings make a perfect fit for big box retail, large healthcare facilities, and campus applications such as higher education.

Who is it for?

Digital Ceilings offer a tremendous amount of opportunity for many different audiences. First, Consulting Engineers will appreciate the improved building performance, maximized energy savings and increased occupant satisfaction IFS and IFC can offer.

Knowing that every job is unique, and many require additional attention to mechanical fit and adaptability, OEM Engineers and Designers will value the flexibility of design and application. Our fixtures are intended to provide flexible IoT solutions. For example, if a large university has a very specific standard and fixture choice on campus, but they want the additional technology capability of a Digital Ceiling, we are able to fulfill those specific needs by integrating the technology into a third-party fixture or design – accommodating design needs at the spec level.

Perhaps most importantly, end users stand to benefit a great deal from these systems. Not only do these fixtures provide the highest levels of energy efficiency to meet and exceed even the most stringent codes and standards, but they offer value beyond just lighting, making buildings smarter and safer. Getting ahead of the curve with technology means unlocking tomorrow’s potential and offering users an option to turn on these solutions as needed along the way.

What Does This Mean for the Future?

As with smartphones, Digital Ceiling technology continues to evolve, with researchers pushing to identify more applications. Installing solutions like a Digital Ceiling goes far beyond just lighting and converging networks. The combination of data generated by the system and analytics enables organizations to make better, more informed decisions, create a healthier and safer work environment and aggregate information that will carry their businesses into the future.

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About Robert Pickral

Robert Pickral serves as Director of IoT and End User Sales at Universal Lighting Technologies. With more than two decades of IoT expertise, Pickral spearheads the digital transformation for the company, overseeing LED upgrade business development and leading the energy sales team with strategic sales plans for IoT solutions and SaaS applications.

About Universal Lighting Technologies, Inc.

Universal Lighting Technologies, Inc., engineers, manufactures and markets innovative solutions for commercial lighting across North America, including LED drivers, LED modules, fluorescent, HID and connected devices using wired and wireless technology. Universal’s EVERLINE® LED retrofit continuum provides a range of solutions for upgrading fluorescent to LED. With over 70 years of experience, the company is recognized for its commitment to quality and customer service. Learn more about Universal at Like us on Facebook and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

About Douglas Lighting Controls

Douglas Lighting Controls, Inc., engineers, manufactures and markets digital lighting controls for commercial buildings, campuses, parking garages and sports complexes across North America. Douglas systems include networked and stand-alone solutions using wired and wireless technology to optimize lighting for building code compliance, energy efficiency, ease-of-use and comfort. With over 50 years of experience, the company is recognized for its expertise in lighting control systems paired with the precise facility solution. Learn more about Douglas at Like us on Facebook and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.