EASTERN EUROPE’S RACE TOWARDS INTELLIGENT LIGHTING
The ongoing developments in LED technology have opened the door for intelligent lighting. Since light-emitting diodes are semiconductors and also part of the digital spectrum, they can easily be connected within a network.
Aware of the possibilities, manufacturers and vendors are keen on attaching lighting technology to the web, in more ways than one. Apps and programs can now be used to turn the lights on and off, adjust brightness levels and in some cases, change light color. Companies such as ELBA set their sights on the production and sale of smart products “IoT-Ready™” – light fixtures that can easily be upgraded with sensors and connectivity modules after installation.
Yet lighting can become part of a much bigger whole, one that helps define the term ‘intelligent’ – or smart- even further. Within such a system, sensors can be applied with ease, sensors that can measure temperature, motion, noise and even transmit data about traffic levels in a city.
Street lighting is expensive, making up for 30 to 50% of the total energy costs that city administrations have to face. European Commission researchers declare that those costs can be halved by transitioning to smart LED street lamps.
Because of old technology, Italy spent almost 1.7 billion euros on street lighting in 2015, the most out of all EU countries. While Germany only spends a third of that amount, city administrations are already taking steps towards intelligent lighting. The city of Munich is on the right track, with a plan to replace older lamps with smart streetlamps equipped with sensors and highly adjustable.
Being able to control and adjust lighting from a phone or any other gadget is a clear benefit in itself. The same can be said about being able to program lamps to emit a certain type of light with a certain level of brightness, depending on the time of the day.
An intelligent system is able to perform great feats, akin to mass individualization. It can learn the habits and preferences of each and every individual and adjust accordingly.
Intelligent lighting is better lighting, since it will always strive towards optimisation. Such a system can reduce energy costs since it can assess the required level of light needed.
With regards to production, Eastern and Central European markets have a leg up in the manufacturing process. Due to a better TCO –total cost of ownership- production costs tend to be lower. Since Eastern Europe is considered an emerging production area, many cities like Bucharest, Sofia, Belgrade and Warsaw develop ties with smart cities around the world.
Intelligent lighting is here to stay and came as a natural step in the much bigger picture of connecting everything with everything. The possibilities are endless as lighting gets assimilated into what is today known as “The Internet of Things”.
Though such connectivity comes with questions and also with risks. Since light fixtures can now host a number of sensors that pick on certain types of data, there’s still confusion on who exactly should claim ownership of the information they gather.
Although the Eastern and Central European market has an economical advantage when manufacturing intelligent street lighting, the decaying infrastructure stands in the way of its proper implementation. In order to avoid putting the cart before the horse, city administrations and state institutions must first invest heavily in the foundation.
As more and more appliances and fixtures are being connected through a network, the risk of exposing them to cyber-attacks increases.
In some parts of Eastern Europe, internet speed is among the best worldwide with Romania as a constant top 10 contender. In 2015, out of the first 15 cities with the fastest download speed provided by a fixed broadband connection, nine were Romanian. Speed, however, is not sufficient when dealing with intelligent lighting. Eastern Europe, although an already established IT market, faces issues regarding the volumes of data that needs to be transferred.
Another issue that Eastern Europe may face is the suboptimal data crunching capability. Compared to the US and Western Europe, the East has a long way to go in developing their data and analytics market. Estimates from the International Data Corporation (IDC) reveal that investments will amount to roughly 3 billion US dollars in 2017.
Intelligent lighting comes with great advantages but also with responsibilities and concerns.