Lighting Matters: Lighting and the Fourth Industrial Revolution – Monthly Column featured in EE Publishers’ Vector Magazine

Last month, I made brief mention of some of the exciting new disruptive lighting technologies which are already available but have not been adopted in South Africa. This can be ascribed to several reasons, and is not limited to a lack of knowledge and understanding among the role players, including quantity surveyors and contractors, who often make decisions contra to those of the illumination engineer.

In circa 1978, I attended a training session with the late Dermot Swain, who founded Yellow Pages in South Africa. The subject was “Closing the deal”. I am confident that not enough time is spent on preparing to present the technology case to the client. I have learnt to allocate as much time as possible to research and preparation, including hard-hitting facts and an economic case study showing returns on investment (RoI).

Back to the technologies: All new lighting technologies use the internet of things (IoT). This makes it possible to use Power over Ethernet, where the luminaires create a connected office space with the use of Ethernet CAT 5 cable. This allows for the luminaires to be powered by DC voltage, with a DC driver. In my article on PoE (see Vector, March 2018, page 18), I also explained how we were able to run on CAT 6 cable up to 100 m using 20 and 30 W luminaires. The disruptor in this technology is that IT companies will enter the illumination market, which is already happening around the world. It is familiar territory for them and they are simply adding another peripheral in the form of a luminaire.

Here is the surprising part – installation costs are shown to be around 20 to 30% of the cost of normal electrical installations. I have no doubt that this disruption will drive electrical installation costs down.

The next disruptor is visible light communication or VLC. This is an extension of IoT and can be applied to both the traditional, electrically-installed luminaires or to PoE-installed luminaires. It means that equipped luminaires can provide Wi-Fi or, more recently, Li-Fi communication. The latter takes communication to new heights. Companies who rely on high-volume and high-speed connectivity can communicate via Li-Fi anywhere from 1 to 100 Gbps. This brings to mind the Johannesburg Stock Exchange or forex dealers who require real-time information and near-instant transactions.



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