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Energy saving potential of global LED adoption and its role in smart city development highlighted at Mobile World Congress

23 March 2017, 9:30 UTC 5 min read

LONDON: The Mobile World Congress 2017 took place in Barcelona from February 27 to March 2, and the central role of light emitting diode (LED) lighting systems in the expansion of smart cities was assessed by a range of experts.

The Mobile World Congress is the biggest global meeting for the mobile industry, and is organized by the GSMA to analyze the convergence of mobile, fixed telecommunications and IT.

A Liveable Cities panel debate, led by Philips Lighting, was held on the second day of the Congress, and focused on the benefits of LED lighting and the core enabling role that connected city lighting can play in the development of smart cities, businesses and the Internet of Things (IoT).  

Empowering cities through connected light

The advent of high-efficiency LED lighting and the opportunity for wide-scale adoption of connected lighting in cities and businesses complements the dramatic growth in interest in smart sensors, smart buildings and big data technologies. 

The underlying challenge is how lighting infrastructure, which may have an expected operational lifetime of 15-25+ years, can be adopted in a way that enables current and future smart city concepts and IoT innovations to be connected and linked. With the rapid development of mobile communications, R&D in sensors, citizen connectivity and services, and ‘big data’ city initiatives there is a clear recognized need for coordinated city and corporate connectivity. New platforms and protocols will not only need to provide security, but will need to deliver flexibility, adaptability and scalability.

The Liveable Cities panel debate was moderated by Sarah Murray, who has been writing about sustainable development and the relationship between business and society for more than 20 years. A former Financial Times staff journalist, she is a regular contributor for the Economist Group, the Financial Times, the Stanford Social Innovation Review among others, as well as being the editor of the Empowering Cities study.

The panel discussion started with a brief overview of the core benefits of connected LED lighting for cities and corporates in terms of energy savings and modernization of critical infrastructure; and Dr Peter Curley highlighted The Climate Group’s LED global consultation work and call to action: that all public lighting should be LED (or as efficient) by 2025.

Kees van der Klauw, Head of Research and Innovation, Philips Lighting (pictured above) explained the wider benefits of connected lighting in cities, and how the infrastructure can play a core role in facilitating the expansion of smart city and IoT technologies. The panel discussed the importance of flexibility, scalability and adaptability in smart city connectivity solutions, so that lighting infrastructure that may need to operate for periods of 15-20+ years can ultimately link to the many existing and future connected products and services.

Joakim Hanusek, Strategic Product Manager, Network Infrastructure, Ericsson, highlighted their work on telecommunications platforms. Hanusek emphasized the importance of ensuring that links across the large number of potential sector verticals that can come into play as the range of smart and IoT products and services for cities and corporations expands, are trialled and ultimately rolled out at scale. 

The challenge of balancing ease of use, openness, and flexibility, with security was also discussed, and van der Klauw highlighted that technology communication nodes could allow isolation of particular systems (e.g. where intelligence and smart controls could be localized) enabling secure access and control to be maintained. 

Christoph Herzig, Global business leader, Philips Lighting outlined the development of new service propositions stimulated by the imminent digitization of the lighting business, and discussed his work with global projects advising them on how to take advantage of this digital revolution.

The panel also highlighted similar large-scale opportunities for off-grid LED projects, and the supporting socio-economic roles that modernized lighting can play in rural and remote areas – supporting social and educational activities and stimulating local business and economic growth.

LED Scale-up

The Climate Group’s LED Scale-Up consultation work is an ongoing series of workshops and events focused on supporting LED adoption in public lighting. The initiative has prompted frequent requests for support and guidance; a common request has been for guidance on approaches to future-proof lighting and connectivity hardware to enable adoption of smart city technologies of the future. 

Many cities around the world typically face a range of budgetary challenges and so to make the switch to energy efficient LEDs they may seek to procure in a phased manner to help spread costs. Given the long timeframes of large scale infrastructure projects and open tendering requirements for public projects, there is a clear desire for connected lighting solutions and communications platforms to be ‘future-proofed’ and flexible to allow future interoperability between multiple supplier and manufacturer equipment.

There are several ‘smart city’ platform approaches from telecommunications companies in development, and the timing of the Mobile World Congress meeting was ideal to increase awareness of how LED connected lighting, smart city and IoT themes will inevitably link together, and the need for greater standardization of platform approaches, as well as interoperability of solutions between manufacturers.

Different challenges for cities and corporates

The Climate Group’s LED work started in 2011 with city based LED lighting trials, and these served as not only an opportunity to demonstrate LEDs, but to verify the capabilities of the technology and to explore feedback from citizens.

The Climate Group’s city consultations have confirmed that LEDs are widely recognized as the lighting upgrade of choice for cities. The initiative has also emphasized the importance of ensuring appropriate lighting design, adopting and maintaining high quality product standards, and the use of public trials, where applicable, to prepare citizens for change.

For corporations, as with cities, the adoption of LEDs can provide significant energy savings, as well as new opportunities for modernization and integration into smart and IoT initiatives. The key differences are that corporations may have a greater variety of LED lighting and smart technology requirements, but are also able to explore system upgrades on shorter time-frames of about 3-7 years, which could allow more frequent opportunities to realign their connected lighting strategies with the latest smart and IoT innovations.

The LED Scale-up city program and The Climate Group’s new corporate focused activity - LED Commit - are both designed to help support global LED adoption, and associated policies.

by Toby Morgan