Intel and GE Smart LEDs Are Newest Bright Spot in IoT Market

Sometimes it’s the most common piece of hardware where embedded IoT sensors can be the most useful—and have the largest market opportunity. GE and Intel have identified that hot spot for development: the smart light bulb.

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(Photo Credit: iQ by Intel)

Robots, drones, VR headsets and other innovative devices often steal the IoT headlines. But sometimes it’s the most common piece of hardware where embedded IoT sensors can be the most useful—and have the largest market opportunity. GE and Intel have identified that hot spot for development: the smart light bulb.

An estimated 2.5 billion light bulbs are sold each year, according to Statisticbrain.com. While many bulbs are three-trick ponies that users can only turn on, off or dim, the newest generation of bulbs are about to get many watts smarter, according to GE.

“Light bulbs are destined to become an essential fixture in the IoT revolution,” says Tony Neal-Graves, Vice President of the Intel Industry IoT Group, in an interview with GE Reports.

Intelligent Networked Lighting

The current generation of LED bulbs uses a solid state semiconductor chip that glows when electrical current runs through it. Compared to incandescent bulbs, they use 80 percent less energy and can last 15 times longer, according to GE. Now IoT engineers are making smart LED lights that have on-board sensors, computing and communications capabilities.

These smart bulbs will play a role in better, more efficient lighting solutions that are brighter and use less energy. The real impact will be their usage in intelligent street lamps that can make cities, parking garages, office buildings and factories smarter and connected.

John Gordon, Chief Digital Officer at GE’s Current energy division, explained at the Intel Developer Forum how GE partnered with Intel to create street light solutions targeted for smart cities that want to use their street lamps for more than just light, but also for collecting data. The intelligent street lamps have sensors to measure humidity and temperature, along with a microphone for monitoring noise levels and a camera.

The intelligent lighting can deliver metadata, including the number of people that pass by and their speed and direction. Cities can use this data for pedestrian flow management and safety. The real-time data collected from the smart lampposts can also help people find parking, assist with traffic control management and help the city monitor environmental concerns, such as pollution and overall air quality.

Shedding Light on Air Quality

Smart streetlamps that can measure air quality are important in cities such as San Diego, where monitoring air quality is top of mind. The busy Port of San Diego has to meet California’s ambitious environmental mandates and emit fewer greenhouse gases.

When researching ways to meet the goals of the Port’s Climate Action Plan, the city met with Cleantech San Diego. That group brought together several IoT contactors and service providers to develop a system of sensors and data analytics that could track air quality and energy consumption across the port.

Monitoring Occupancy

An added benefit of smart lighting is its usage in office buildings to monitor occupancy. By doing so, the lights can be programmed to send alerts that can regulate room temperature, so businesses won’t waste energy heating or cooling empty spaces.

More importantly, the smart lighting can send data that can be used to help people find the nearest available meeting room. An employee could pull up an app or go online and see open meeting rooms, rather than roaming the halls looking for empty spaces.

Intel’s Santa Clara, CA, headquarters has a pilot program to test this functionality and is equipped with thousands of controllable LED lights, including many with the ability to sense occupancy. This pilot could extend to other Intel facilities, according to the company. By early 2017, Intel and GE expect to sell their lighting-based sensors for use in factories and offices.