Philips unveils sensor-ready system for connected office lighting

We’ve already seen Philips(s phg)’s clever indoor lighting platform that acts as a fine-grained indoor location-tracking system for shops, but now the Dutch conglomerate is preparing to unveil something for the office.

Next week at the Light + Building show in Frankfurt, Germany, Philips will take the wraps off its connected office lighting system. The LED light fixtures are all hooked up to the building’s IT network through their wiring – it’s Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), which provides just enough juice for low-power LEDs – and can also include sensors for monitoring humidity and temperature, as well as for judging when a room is occupied or not.

As with the in-store system, the lights can also act as a positioning grid to help people navigate the office layout. By communicating with a smartphone app using light, the fixtures could tell where the user is and help recommend the nearest vacant meeting room, for example. Users could also easily adjust the lighting and temperature of the room they’re in, via the app.

“Large database”

The real pitch here is for building owners and facility managers. By measuring occupancy levels and energy usage, and displaying the results through Philips’s software, the system would make it easier to figure out when to heat certain areas, how often specific rooms need cleaning, and of course what should be lit at certain times of day.

“It’s gathering a large database of information for various fixtures for facility managers, to make their life easier,” Philips spokesman Menno Kleingeld told me.

Philips isn’t the first company to unveil such a system. Notably, Redwood Systems, bought last year by CommScope, also supplies a package that combines LEDs with Ethernet-style cables for environmental monitoring and centralized building control.

However, Redwood’s system does not hew to the PoE specification. Kleingeld was adamant that Philips’s system sticks to open standards, cutting down on cost and avoiding potential lock-in. That said, certain features will only work with Philips’s software. “Part of where we believe we can play an extended role is by offering user apps and facility management tools,” he said.

Carbon footprint hopes

Philips already has a showcase customer for its system in consultancy giant Deloitte, whose new Amsterdam office (currently under construction) incorporates it. “We… see our office raising the bar in data analytics with completely new insights in the use of office space, leading the way for offices to reduce the CO2 footprint of buildings and create a more sustainable world,” Deloitte Netherlands CIO Erik Ubels said in a statement.

Regarding security, Kleingeld told me that all the data generated by the lighting system would by default stay in the customer’s own IT network. Being wired rather than wireless, it’s also harder to snoop on.

He also said it was possible that the system’s sensors could provide a security benefit by sensing when someone is in a room when they shouldn’t be, but he stressed that this wasn’t explicitly part of Philips’s current setup. “We believe security is a profession in itself,” he said.