The Evolution of LED Technologies and Controls

Chain stores are notorious for their large consumption of energy, in fact, energy is the fourth largest in-store operating cost for U.S. retailers. Out of this energy use, approximately 11%  of a facility’s costs are spent on lighting according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Lighting is an important component of the customer experience; after all it’s what helps retailers highlight displays and properly showcase product to customers so as to create a better shopping experience that helps drive sales and revenue. For these reasons, it’s critical to maintain a well-lit facility – even if that means a facility may shoulder greater energy requirements.

Many facility managers, by now, are well aware that plenty of options exist to meet the need for higher-quality lighting, often capitalizing on solutions that both drive greater efficiency and support corporate sustainability initiatives, all while providing an enhanced shopping experience. Perhaps the easiest update any facility can make is the switch from outdated lighting technologies such as fluorescent, metal halide and halogen, to high-efficiency LED lighting. This simple shift in lighting technology will significantly boost efficiency as LEDs offer the potential to reduce lighting energy use by more than sixty-five percent, achieved through its unique ability to more efficiently convert energy to light. This means less heat is created, offering the secondary benefit of positively impacting a facility’s cooling requirement.

As a standalone, the benefits of LEDs are substantial, however the continued advancement in control based solutions, particularly those achieved exclusively through LED technology, are rapidly advancing lighting’s role among retail facilities. Maintenance and operations are improved through advanced global and localized monitoring capabilities; efficiency is maximized through lighting controls based on occupancy, time of day, daylight levels and motion; and regulation of LED lighting through color tuning and dimming, combined with LED’s superior color rendering, is enhancing the quality of light for the retail environment’s staff and shoppers.

Most interestingly though, retailers’ commitment to utilize “smart” Internet-based technologies, commonly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT) to enhance the retail experience, is shifting the paradigm of lighting. LED lighting and controls are moving beyond its primary purpose of delivering a highly efficient light source.

Changing complexity and controllability in lighting automation
Lighting controls have continued to evolve from simple solutions, including motion and occupancy, to more complex options such as daylight harvesting, color tuning and dimming. The increased complexity of these controls aids will enhance lighting efficiency throughout a facility, however most interestingly this allows for more precise and complex lighting applications requirements within localized aspects of the retail environment.

To date, many facilities have already introduced timers, syncing their lighting with store hours to eliminate wasteful energy use when the facility is closed, in addition to the use of basic occupancy/motion sensor devices throughout secondary or support spaces, including warehouse and storage environments to reduce the overall runtime of lighting.

Now, retailers can take advantage of increased lighting complexity, made possible through LED lighting technology and current control solutions. As a starting point, LED lighting delivers superior color rendering (CRI) versus other lighting solutions that more accurately depicts and objects color, enhancing the visual quality of a product, while helping reduce eye strain according to several studies. Combined with controls, LED’s can be regulated to address both light output (lumens) and color temperature (CCT) to provide diverse lighting option for retailers, particularly within localized requirements to address specific needs, whether focusing shopper attention to certain areas, displays or signage – be it on an end cap, a sale item or a new product display.

One of the most valuable components of an LED’s controllability however, is the connectivity the fixtures offer throughout a facility. To better monitor and manage lighting systems, the introduction of Internet-based control systems is creating interconnected smart fixtures that provide greater transparency and control over the facility. This includes real-time feedback on facility’s operations which helps facility managers make better informed decisions or provide immediate response to issues such fixtures that may not be working. The smart fixtures can “speak” to maintenance control stations with information on the wattage of each fixture, alerts on maintenance functions needed and can better control lighting output throughout the entire facility, streamlining maintenance efforts.

LEDs become the beacon for IoT integration
The connective capability of LED fixtures is shifting their sole purpose as a light source, becoming a tool to drive retailers’ deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) based initiatives within a facility. The latest LED fixtures are now offered as integrated smart control solutions, capable of acting as networked nodes, utilizing POE, Bluetooth to WiFi to help support retailer initiatives for greater transparency, monitoring and customer engagement.

While this IoT connectivity does providing serious benefits in terms of maintenance, it can be particularly useful in enhancing the consumer experience especially since many shoppers are constantly plugged into the IoT through their mobile devices. Some facilities are experimenting with new mobile marketing opportunities that utilizes LED fixtures as communications nodes to communicate directly with mobile devices including cell phones, tablets and smart watches.

We’ve already seen this type of smart connectivity in stores like Target where the company’s Cartwheel app can sense that a customer has entered a store and will notify them of current deals through their mobile device. As facilities continue to advance lighting’s IoT capabilities, we will undoubtedly see further testing with in-store hotspots and more precise targeting, delivering different coupons and offerings based on an individual’s location within the store.

LEDs and control solutions are continuing to rapidly advance how we capitalize on lighting and IoT opportunities throughout retail environments. In some cases, this drives energy efficiency and optimizes maintenance. In other applications it helps to boost both the customer experience while also driving in-store mobile marketing efforts. The controllability of LED technologies coupled with IoT integration is making these solutions not just useful but necessary for retailers looking to maximize savings with lighting while also ensuring customers have the type of successful shopping experience that drives sales.

Jay Black is VP of Development & Communications for Revolution Lighting Technologies.