smart-fluorescent-lightsSmart Lighting: A Bear Journey

I was talking with a possible partner the other day about their incredible solution for optimizing energy in smart systems.  It should be noted that businesses generally purchase smart systems to save money (mostly on energy).  That said, simply adding LED lighting to a building does not achieve full savings when compared to a demand-response solution that layers intelligent metering on top.

This thought process initiated a fascinating journey that ended up providing some interesting insights into how Bear can provide a value add in  many ways.  Let’s start at the base level where the current hardware energy management solution controls how much power is being used by a set of 4 smart LED lights in a single unit.  At this point, interestingly enough, we discovered that the energy management solution actually uses the power lines to communicate its commands.  Moreover, those commands terminate at their hardware which means that the lights actually do not need any communications turned on in order to work

We discovered that the lights were running both Bluetooth and WiFi.  Bluetooth was ostensibly for local firmware updates and WiFi was used to enable certificate-based (SSL) authentication of new bulbs added to the unit.  At this level, Bear can also run over the power lines and then extend its control to the unit itself both for firmware updates and authentication.  While this last step of communication would need to travel over Bluetooth or WiFi, Bear can turn those off and then turn them on during tight maintenance windows.  Going further, Bear enables peer-based authenticate which obviates ever using WiFi which is by far the most expensive resource.  Even at this level, Bear is able to minimize energy consumption and eliminate Internet traffic.

The discussion then focused on the other side of technology – operational technology or OT.  While IT (informational) focuses on better encryption, more resources, etc…, OT focuses on device longevity, optimized configuration control (which we already discussed) and getting ahead of maintenance curves (e.g. changing a bulb before it goes out).  To this end, we found that some units enable the ability to only turn on some subset of the bulbs – say 2 of the 4 – and we found out that many bulbs have the same lifespan regardless of running at 50% power or 100% power.  To this end, Bear can create a more intelligent power utilization paradigm where 50% lighting equates to 2 bulbs being on in a rotating sequence.  This type of management offers potentially significant increases in bulb lifetimes.

We also discussed the fact that a bulb will start drawing energy differently as it starts to go bad.  Many people are familiar with flickering fluorescent bulbs and this is akin to the behaviors exhibited by smart bulbs.  While not confirmed, we thought that the power spikes in these failing bulbs actually makes them run less efficiently.  With Bear running on the unit, we are able to detect when a bulb is going bad and both notify somebody ahead of time and alter the power utilization to leave that bulb off until replaced unless full 100% power is required.  This might not sound like much but when you replace the bulbs with valve controls on, say, an oil pipeline, being able to failover to a backup with no downtime is a fairly big deal.

There was more to the discussion revolves around our security offering and cloud enabling this system of control but those have been discussed elsewhere.  I felt that providing a summary of this conversation might be enlightening to people attempting to see how Bear can help their systems.

Let me know if you have any questions!