Energy sustainability, employee productivity, building efficiency optimization – can these be achieved with smart lighting?

As employees in the region begin returning to the office – at least some of the time – to work, leading to a hybrid working model, what can organizations do to optimize their workspaces and prepare it for the hybrid workplace of the future? 

Signify is one company that believes connected lighting systems embedded with IoT sensors offer organizations a way to monitor space and electricity usage, as well as give employees the option to customize lighting to suit their needs.

How would this support employee performance, save time and money, improve sustainability, and optimize building efficiency? DigiconAsia sought out some insights from Jitender Khurana, Country Head & Managing Director, Singapore and Emerging Markets, Signify.

Jitender Khurana, Head & Managing Director, Singapore and Emerging Markets, Signify

How far has smart office lighting systems developed, and why is now the right time to adopt connected lighting technology?

Jitender: Smart lighting systems has come a long way. Many homes and offices are increasingly using smart lighting to control lighting from an app for greater convenience and to lower energy consumption.

At Signify, we have taken smart lighting beyond illumination. Our connected lighting systems and embedded sensor networks are powered by our Interact IoT platform to collect data from things like levels of light, noise and humidity to occupancy and people movement.

It is the best time for businesses to adopt a connected lighting system as it transits from energy saving to value creation. Moreover, as the world moves towards post-pandemic safe returns to the office, the power of such Smart lighting systems to use data to reassess space usage and layout will boost the capacity of businesses to create safer workspaces.

Furthermore, as more countries and organizations work towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations (UN), connected lighting together with energy-saving LED lights can serve as a solid first step towards those goals.

What are the benefits of adopting connected lighting technology, no matter the size of an organization?

Jitender: The first major benefit of adopting connected LED lighting systems is energy optimization. Switching to LED lights can deliver up to 40% energy savings. The addition of smart controls can save an additional 20 to 25%. Presence detection sensors mean that lights are only used when needed and dim automatically when no one is around.

Smart lighting systems also enable daylight harvesting and occupancy detection. This conserves energy by reducing lighting and other services such as HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) when they are not needed. Furthermore, users can view lighting-based energy consumption across an entire office or even a portfolio of offices via a dashboard to benchmark usage and identify opportunities to reduce emissions.

Another key benefit of adopting a connected lighting system is it offers the best and fastest Return on Investment (ROI) – within three to five years.

A connected light system like Interact offers many valuable applications such as using data to enhance space management. Users can capture and analyze occupancy data to understand space usage patterns, help employees avoid overcrowded areas and maintain safe distancing. This will keep employees safe and healthy.

Interact can also enhance employee performance and comfort. For example, the system uses bio-adaptive lighting, a scientifically validated method that provides different levels of light intensity and color temperature to help employees focus by supporting the body’s circadian rhythm and keeping them energized throughout the day.

Why should connected lighting be the first and primary solution for turning a workplace into a smart office?

Jitender: As lighting is something that every organization already possesses, it is a readily available network to tap upon to achieve workplace transformation goals.

Connected lighting is easy to set up, highly scalable and brings instant benefits from the get-go. For instance, for the Interact Pro scalable smart lighting system — an intuitive cloud-based software — installation only requires a Bluetooth connection without the need for additional wiring.

For companies that want to tap the potential of IoT, connected lighting serves as an infrastructure for several types of IoT sensors to collect data from the environment. It is easier to install sensors for other uses on a lighting network than to install a separate system for them with its own cabling.

How will connected lighting technology aid the new hybrid working model?

Jitender: In the new hybrid working model, flexibility is key — organizations need to be able to adapt quickly to evolving situations to thrive in the new normal.

This calls for office spaces to be reconfigurable, fluid, and cross-functional. A connected lighting system is built to achieve such goals, as it is capable of keeping track of office occupancy and usage patterns historically and provide valuable data insights in real-time for employers to make intelligent decisions.

In addition, as organizations rethink the mission of the physical workspace, the ability to experiment with different solutions has become pivotal. Being a scalable system, connected lighting can enable the required experimentation, softening the effects of error inherent in adopting new ways of working.

For example, buildings and offices can use Signify’s Interact Space Management app to monitor space utilization of their premises. The data gained in the process could be used to ensure adherence to safety management measures and occupancy limits. Apart from that, temperature control is also possible as data gathered on room occupancy can be fed to the air-conditioning system to make adjustments. If no one is in the room, the system can increase the temperature by a few degrees to reduce energy consumption. Indoor navigation is also a possibility as Interact Office uses lighting infrastructure and real-time occupancy data to guide employees to wherever they need to go, such as the nearest free workspace or meeting room. It can also help employees avoid overcrowded areas and maintain safe distancing.

How does Interact Office help increase employee productivity, and are there examples of how it has benefited organizations in the region? 

Jitender: Lighting has been shown to improve employee performance in the office. According to The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace report, employees in workplaces that incorporated natural elements such as greenery and sunlight reported 6% higher productivity levels compared to those without.

Employees who feel in control of their environment also typically feel more engaged which leads to increased loyalty and enhanced performance. Interact Office provides the option for employees to have personalized lighting configurations to bring about better and more comfortable working conditions.

Many organizations have benefitted from Interact Office. For example, the China Academy of Building Research’s (CABR) in Beijing is the first building in China to transform into a smart office with IoT-based connected lighting using Interact Office lighting management software. This resulted in increased employee comfort and productivity as employees could personalize light levels to suit their tasks and preference via an application. An employee user survey showed that an impressive 100% of the employees ranked lighting as a first place among the other building systems.

In Singapore, Beca’s Digital Innovation Hub implemented Interact Office to give them first-hand experience in smart lighting technology. With the aid of Interact Office’s data sharing and integration capabilities, the sensors ensure optimal meeting room usage and data sharing via a chatbot to enhance communication with all users. Occupants of the space are able to easily control and interact with the building’s lighting infrastructure from their phones, providing time savings and improving efficiency.

Swissotel The Stamford, on the other hand, adopted Interact Hospitality to enhance their guests’ experience. When guests check in, the system will set the air-conditioning of their rooms to the optimum temperature. When they arrive in their rooms, the sensors in the lighting system will detect their presence and turn on the lights.