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The U.S. Department of Energy’s Next Generation Lighting Systems (NGLS) program, managed by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, is launching the next phase of evaluations of indoor connected lighting systems. The initial phase, which began in 2017, evaluated 12 systems installed in working classrooms at New York City’s Parsons School of Design, The New School. The new phase will include the upgrade of the existing systems, as well as the addition of new systems that are also marketed as easy to install and configure and consist of LED luminaires with integral, luminaire-level sensors and controls. The systems will be evaluated over a two-year period for installation, configuration, control operation, lighting quality, energy savings, and user satisfaction.

Connected lighting has the potential to improve lighting control, saving 30–40% of lighting energy use in buildings through dimming, occupancy sensing, and other optimization functions.1 But early connected lighting systems face some of the same perennial challenges as traditional lighting controls: they can be complicated and difficult to configure and commission. What’s more, these challenges typically don’t reveal themselves until systems are installed in real buildings. This is why NGLS—a government-sponsored program tasked with quantifying technical challenges and fostering solutions that can be applied across the lighting technology development space—has convened this unique “living laboratory” approach. Within the living laboratory, NGLS evaluators observe configuration challenges across multiple lighting systems in real time, an impossibility for any individual technology manufacturer to carry out themselves due to cost, time, and competitive constraints. The findings synthesized by NGLS are then made publicly available to the benefit of lighting technology developers, specifiers, installers, and users.

The initial indoor evaluations—representing a range of manufacturers, control systems, and luminaire types—have yielded valuable insights regarding the variety of approaches to system architecture, operational complexity, configuration tools, wall controls, and documentation. The findings from the current upgrades and installations will be published online, augmenting the repository of lessons learned from the initial phase.

Connected lighting systems that are overly complicated and time-consuming to install and configure often do not perform to expectations, and therefore do not achieve the anticipated performance or energy savings. NGLS is conducting observational research in real-world settings in order to identify the “pressure points” in configuration complexity—observing and evaluating real people installing and configuring connected lighting systems in real time. This evaluation process compares multiple approaches in a single environment, yielding insights that cannot be obtained in a demonstration, mockup, or laboratory setting. The observations reveal areas for improvement and identify approaches that work. System approaches and practices that minimize configuration complexity are then widely shared with the entire industry. In contrast, industry research (which is not shared) typically has a narrow focus that can limit broad solutions to configuration complexity.

Thank you for providing the detailed feedback from the installation of the [product] during the NGLS competition. We have been evaluating the feedback with our teams internally and have some potential improvements to help streamline the areas where the installers had trouble.  - NGLS Participant (Original Equipment Manufacturer)

NGLS Outdoor Installations Set to Start

NGLS outdoor evaluations are scheduled to start this summer at Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, adjacent to Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia. A total of six outdoor parking lot systems are being installed on individual parking lots: Synapse’s SimplySNAP, Hubbell’s wiSCAPE®, Acuity’s DTL® DSN, Current by GE’s LightGridTM, Lutron’s Limelight, and CIMCON’s NearSkyTM. Initial evaluations will focus on cutting-edge presence detection capabilities employed by the systems, including detection of vehicles (both gas and electric) and pedestrians emerging from vehicles and buildings. Overall lighting quality performance will also be reviewed, with one goal being to verify current revisions to Chapter 17 of ANSI/IES RP-8-18 (“Practice for Design and Maintenance of Roadway and Parking Facility Lighting—Parking Lots and Parking Garages”). As with the indoor systems, these outdoor systems will be evaluated over a two-year period in a “living lab” setting, and the observations will be widely shared to drive product improvements. 

Three photos in a parking lot showing installation of outdoor lighting controls
Outdoor product installation at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
Photo: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Organized by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Program in partnership with the Illuminating Engineering Society and the International Association of Lighting Designers, NGLS evaluates today’s connected lighting systems in real-world installations, in order to identify challenges in installation and operation, reveal needed product improvements, and articulate principles and best practices that will reduce configuration complexity and enable system performance to meet expectations. Learn more about NGLS evaluations.

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