Lighting technology has witnessed significant changes and improvements in the past few years with a shift from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs and now, to light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. This change has been driven by the focus on higher energy savings, enhanced lighting output and increased expanse of lighting usage for various purposes. It is against this backdrop that the LED market has achieved tremendous growth in the past two years and is expected to continue its growth in the future as well. In addition, the emergence of smart cities and smart homes has accelerated the adoption of smart LEDs as they can be connected and controlled wirelessly. The LED market has been constantly evolving to meet the rapidly changing demands and is now set to go much beyond the “clean and green” tag.
Smart street lighting solutions
Given that the majority of street lights in India continue to be operated by local municipalities, merely shifting to LED lights to save power provides only a limited solution. In order to reduce power consumption, transmission losses and power theft, automation is the need of the hour. In this context, smart street lights are emerging as a potential solution to enable the optimum utilisation of street lighting in a city and facilitate the deployment of solutions as per the requirements of the area/zone.
Smart street lighting solutions entail a plethora of advantages such as real-time monitoring and control of street lights to track consumption patterns, reduction in burn time, significant energy savings and a reduction in carbon emissions. While a simple switch to LEDs can decrease energy consumption by 50 per cent, a connected LED can reduce it further to 70-80 per cent.
In order to successfully control the light, the circuit board must be integrated with the LED driver. Further, for a high range of data transmission, the chip must use a far-reach technology and a mesh protocol to maintain robust connectivity. In essence, an automation system, when combined with LED lighting, helps in lowering the operating costs of street lights. Besides, with advancements in technology, street lights can be integrated with light sensors to facilitate their automatic dimming or switching off during the daytime.
In India, the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority will be setting up “smart” poles in the city, which will be mounted with LED lights, CCTV cameras and Wi-Fi routers. The connected LED street lighting model will demonstrate the capabilities of light beyond illumination. Once implemented, the project will offer citizens a more connected, energy efficient and safe urban environment.
By implementing a secure cloud technology and streamlining the lighting system by enabling communication between lights, sensors and other smart devices, such a model can provide real-time data to the central server on parameters such as traffic density, temperature and brightness. Municipal authorities can subsequently utilise the information to reduce energy consumption in less dense zones, and adjust the light temperature and brightness to increase safety. Such models have been deployed globally as well, which offer a long lifetime of around 150,000 hours.
In Singapore, the Land Transport Authority has started implementing LEDs in combination with remote control and monitoring systems (RCMSs) to replace the existing timer-based street light system. RCMS technology allows the system to be more responsive to weather changes and features automated fault detection and alert capabilities.
In sum, connectivity, internet of things and new power technologies have led to modernisation in LED lighting systems.
Challenges and the way forward
While the Indian LED lighting market has evolved significantly over the years, the lack of awareness about efficient lighting continues to be a roadblock in its rapid growth. Moreover, conventional lighting is still prevalent due to its relatively low cost and widespread availability. There are also technical challenges with the integration of automation solutions with LED lighting given the existing infrastructure.
But while these technologies are at a nascent stage and will require investment in the initial phase, they will yield financial savings in the long term and play a vital role in the development of smart streets and cities.