Aerial view of Brussels at night

Make a change

It was – and still is – a remarkable, but also somewhat disturbing sight. When the evening curfew was introduced in the Netherlands, one of the things that immediately caught the eye was the combination of deserted, but heavily-lit streets. Natuur- en Milieufederatie Nederland – a Dutch organization for nature preservation – rightfully pointed out that there is absolutely no need to turn on every available street light when practically everybody is staying indoors. Reality is that on a weekly basis we spill 10.000.000 kWh of energy by the unnecessary use of lighting. This equals the energy use of 150.000 households per week.

Obviously, it is not a very good idea to cover entire cities in complete darkness during a lockdown. But it is definitely a missed opportunity that most cities and towns do not use a connected lighting system that can provide for a much more energy (and cost) efficient lighting plan. An intelligent system that automatically switches off – for example – specific parts of a city’s street lighting and office lighting as they are of no use with no one around. And of course, switches them on when necessary.

Let’s take one step back and focus on the general concept of connectivity. Being connected basically means that you are able to share information in order to optimize – for instance – the achievements and efficiency of the individual parts in a network. The purpose is generally to make these parts more efficient and to make the combination of the individual parts more successful. Basically, connectivity is about collaboration.

In addition to city streets, there is another part of the urban environment where enormous amounts of energy are wasted every day: industrial and business areas. How about large production, warehouse and logistical facilities that are oftentimes partly or even fully lid when there is no one around? The same goes for the outdoor lighting in these areas. Obviously, some facilities have to be operational 24/7, but that Is exactly where smart and connected lighting comes in. The right (amount of) light at the right time can make an enormous difference. With no one around, there is no need to turn on every light in the building, is there?

Lockdown or no lockdown: it really pays off to have a close look at the amount of light needed to be productive and efficient. And in addition to an intrinsic drive to become more sustainable and cost-efficient, there are also legal obligations. Since 2020 for instance, an important environmental law in the Netherlands – the Wet Milieubeheer – states that companies or organizations that use over 50.000 kilowatts of energy per year, are obliged to invest in energy-saving measures. The rule applies to measures that must be recoverable within five years, but that at least implies that companies should start using LED lighting. However, to really make a significant leap forward implementing LED-light should be combined with a connected lighting system.

In many ways, the pandemic is opening our eyes. The lockdowns – for example – reveal how inefficiently and unstainable we are in many areas where we actually have the possibility of acting more wisely.

Numerous industrial companies, warehouses and big box retailers around the world have already implemented connected lighting to significantly reduce energy use an save costs. Why not use the momentum of a significant worldwide crisis to truly make a structural change and join them?