LEDs, Big-Data & the Cloud

LEDs, Big-Data & the Cloud 

By Keith Dawson, Editor-in-Chief / 6/26/2013

Have we got all the buzzwords in there? Meet Sensity Systems, which is building out smart networks on the coattails of LED upgrade projects.

We've been introduced to network-based lighting control systems from the likes of Daintree Networks. We've discussed remote networked camera modules that see in the dark using infrared LEDs. Sensity Systems, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., takes these ideas and fits them into a much larger picture.

Sensity rebranded in April of this year from its former name, Xeralux. From what I can tell fromtraces remaining on the web of the Xeralux brand, the company was a pure-play lighting manufacturer, like many another in the space, making LED-based retrofit kits and luminaires for outdoor, high bay, and parking garage applications.

GreenBiz.com ran a feature on Sensity in which its chairman and CEO, Hugh Martin, referred to lighting as the Trojan horse on which smart networks will ride in, all connected to cloud-based intelligence that will enable a myriad of applications. Martin said:

The question that really launched the company is this: If you were going to install all those power supplies up in the air and the labor was already covered by the economics of the LED retrofit, what else could you do while you're up in the air with a screwdriver? We're going to combine the vision of the smart city or Internet of Things with this emerging phenomenon of LED conversions.

Green Biz interviewed an executive at Shorenstein, a manager of commercial property across the US. The executive's comments reinforce the wisdom of a value proposition based on packing more intelligence into luminaires: "Initially, this was all about lighting for us. But because of the networking that is built in, we are experimenting with cameras, for security, to let us know how many parking spaces are available."

Each fixture Sensity sells is equipped with processing power and low-latency, high-bandwidth networking, along with audio, optical, environmental, and other sensors. Each has its own IP address, so the lights can be controlled individually or in groups. But that's only the beginning. Any fixture can collect data on temperature and humidity, levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen, ambient light, pollution, rainfall, wind, and almost any other data imaginable, and report it to Sensity's cloud (they call it NetSense) for processing, analysis, and reporting.

The applications that Sensity currently offers on NetSense include security, parking management, asset management and RFID, power management, and retail analytics.

It's data, but not as we know it 
Sensity uses the buzz phrase "big-data" in talking about the processing power behind the company's "Light Sensory Network." But is it big-data as the industry defines it? Does it havevolume, velocity, and variety? My guess is, not yet, not unless Sensity anonymizes and aggregates the data from all of its customers and allows analytics to run against all of it -- something that some customers might not appreciate.

The highest-profile customer announced to date is the Republic of El Salvador, which intends incrementally to deploy a Light Sensory Network across the entire nation. Sensity, for its part, will invest in manufacturing in that country. (The press release didn't mention earthquake sensing, but it seems like a natural application for that part of the world.)

What apps would you like to see running on a network of sensors atop light poles?