In this article I will share what I have learned about lighting – specifically, IP (internet protocol) based lighting. This field has been around for a few years now but is mainly known at the consumer levels with individual lights that fit into existing sockets replacing traditional “dumb” lighting.
The terminology surrounding lighting seems a little confused to me. I’ve heard the terms smart lighting, PoE lighting, IP lighting, and LiFi all used when describing this technology (or some aspect of it). It seems that Googling multiple terms will result in somewhat different results but highly overlapping in content / theory between them. Here are a few definitions to help clear things up:
- Smart Lighting – This is oftentimes used when speaking of consumer lighting (smart home). It uses the existing lighting infrastructure (e.g., wires) but with light bulbs that have electronics within them to make them “smart.”
- PoE Lighting – PoE stands for Power-over-Ethernet. This stand has really come into its own over the last number of years. It utilizes standard ethernet (e.g., Cat 5, 5e, 6, 6a) cabling to transmit power to devices. In this system, the infrastructure for lighting is replaced.
- IP Lighting – Delineates lighting which operates using the Internet Protocol (the IP in TCP/IP) to control lighting.
- LiFi – Involves using light bulbs as wireless access points. They are capable 100x-200x the speed of our current WiFi systems.
- Also known as Visible Light Communications (VLC).
- The downside is that they require light in order to communicate, though there are some work-arounds.
I’d suggest that a term like IP/PoE lighting (with or without LiFi) may be helpful. What most folks will be looking for, and where I see this technology heading is towards the combination of these three features:
- Physical – The lighting infrastructure is built using PoE switches, ethernet cabling, intelligent bulbs.
- Logical – The IP tells us what sort of protocol is being used to communicate between switches, software, and the bulbs.
- Features – the optional “with(out) LiFi” tells us whether this particular infrastructure is capable of delivering wireless internet through the lighting system.
Or we could just go with a mouthful: smart PoE IP lighting (with/without LiFi).
Sometimes these intelligent lighting solutions are paired with LED because LED seems to be the lighting of the future. That said, it is not necessary to use a PoE/IP based system to utilize LED lights. When reading materials on the advantages/disadvantages of PoE/IP lighting, be sure to separate out what is actually a pro/con for PoE/IP versus LED.
Pros/Cons of PoE/IP Lighting
- Pro – Each light can be individually controlled.
- Pro – Individuals can have control over the lighting in their own offices, changing brightness, etc. as needed.
- Con – While IP and PoE have been around for a while, their use for lighting is a more recent innovation, and none of these can compare to the longevity and proven reliability of traditional lighting.
- Con – Adding addressable IP devices means increasing surface exposure for compromised security.
- I would suggest that lighting should be separated onto a VLAN or even a physically distinct switching infrastructure.
- Pro – Uses low-voltage wiring which oftentimes reduce the cost and ease inspection requirements over traditional lighting.
- Pro – Eliminates the AC-to-DC conversion required by traditional lighting.
- Pro – Removal of the AC-to-DC converter removes one of the more prone-to-failure components in LED lighting.
Major Industry Players
Who are the folks heading this lighting revolution?
- SmartCast – Uses Cisco’s Digital Ceiling.
Based on what I have read and discussed with others, I’d suggest the following as some base-line requirements for a lighting system:
- Utilizes Ethernet Cabling.
- Operates over IP.
- Utilizes an open protocol for device communication.
- Allows for cross-manufacturer integrations.
- Utilizes open management protocols allow for different applications to control the network.
Bibliography / Further Reading
- Dr. Tom Lombardo. “What’s Inside Cree’s SmartCast PoE Lighting?” Engineering.com, 3/2016.
- Good overview article of PoE lighting in general, focused especially on Cree and to some extent Cisco.
- Christina Mercer. “What is Li-Fi? Everything You Need to Know.” TechWorld (IDG), 7/2015.
- Jim Sinopoli. “Lighting Up LEDs: Out with the Romex Wire: In with Category 6.” Building Automation, 2/2014.
- Jim is PE, LEED BD+C, and RCCD certified.
- John Bullock. “What Nobody Tells You About Power Over Ethernet.” Lux Review, 8/2016.
- Covers issues of compatible fixtures, network interference, etc.
- Mark Halper. “The Power over Ethernet Lighting Picture Gets Bigger.” LEDs Magazine, 6/2016.
- Discusses a sizable implementation by mindSHIFT Technologies.
- Susan Bloom. “The Power of PoE.” Electrical Contractor, 6/2015.
- “Power Over Ethernet Lighting for Commercial Buildings by Molex.” LED Professional, 6/2016.
According to Wikipedia’s article on “Structured Cabling” there are six subsystems into which structured cabling falls:
- Entrance Facilities – The termination point of the communications company’s network and the beginning point of one’s on-premises cabling.
- Equipment Rooms – Consolidates cabling generally within the same floor.
- Backbone Cabling – Usually runs between the various equipment rooms, which are often on different floors.
- Horizontal Cabling – Cabling that runs from an equipment room to an individual outlet.
- Telecommunications Rooms / Telecommunications Enclosures – Connects backbone cabling to horizontal cabling.
- Work Area Components – From the individual outlets (horizontal cabling) to the user’s equipment.
The standards for structured cabling are provided by various organizations (CENELEC, IEC, ISO, TIA), see above Wikipedia article for a listing of ANSI/TIA standards.
Roger A. Grimes has written an interesting article for InfoWorld discussing the reality that relatively minor players can take down large segments of the internet and that many critical systems rely upon the internet. He suggests the only way to overcome these attacks requires an upgrade of the internet, not just piecemeal upgrades of various corporations or endpoints.
He recommends two strategies to accomplish this upgrade:
- Use of more secure methods of authentication to ensure traffic is being sent from legitimate sources to legitimate recipients.
- The creation of centralized services that would be able to analyze web traffic and determine when hostile attacks were occurring and inform other network entities about these.
Read the full article here.
Ubiquiti offers enterprise products at drastically reduced costs (e.g. compare the cost of their offerings to those from Meraki or Meru).
What is the Ubiquiti Controller?
Before you start installing any components you need to know about the Ubiquiti Controller. This is the management software for organizing one’s network.
The Ubiquiti controller is available for free download for Windows, Mac, or Linux; or one can use a Cloud Key. It requires the Java Runtime Environment and a web browser.
One can run the software on a management station (computer/server) at the location of the network or in the cloud.
Moving Between Controllers
- Log into the current controller.
- Go to Settings –> Site.
- Under Device Authentication, ensure you have set and know the current SSH username/password used to access devices.
- Go to Settings –> Maintenance.
- Download backup.
- Close controller window in browser.
- Right click on Ubiquiti Unifi Controller app and choose Quit.
- Login to new controller.
- Go to Settings –> Maintenance.
- Choose Restore and select recently created backup file.
- “Working Please Wait” appears on the screen indicating the unit is applying the update and rebooting. For me, this never seemed to go away, but I was able to launch a new instance of the controller web GUI without incident.