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Consumer Technology

Published on February 23rd, 2016 | by Joshua S Hill


Cree Announces SmartCast Power Over Ethernet To Enable Internet of Things

February 23rd, 2016 by  

Leading lighting provider Cree has introduced SmartCast Power over Ethernet, a new way to power lighting and enable the Internet of Things.

Cree-1Cree’s SmartCast Technology was introduced back in February of 2014, and was billed as “the first self-programming wireless lighting-control system that reduces energy consumption by more than 70%.”

“Commercial lighting customers have resisted installing traditional lighting controls because of excess cost and complexity, and the majority of those who have installed controls stop using them as intended after the first year because they’re difficult to maintain,” said Norbert Hiller, executive vice president, lighting, at the time. “Cree SmartCast Technology eliminates these barriers to adoption and delivers the enormous benefit of significantly greater energy cost savings, allowing customers to finally realize the promise of lighting controls.”

Two years later, and Cree has partnered with tech company Cisco to provide SmartCast Power over Ethernet, which is part of the Cisco Digital Ceiling framework, “which connects disparate systems into a single IP network to create smart, more secure, seamless connected building systems.” Using an existing Ethernet framework rather than separate data and high-voltage power connections, Cree’s SmartCast PoE will be able to work straight out of the box and make use of existing data infrastructure. Cree explains Power over Ethernet:

Power over Ethernet (PoE) uses standard Ethernet cables to carry both power and data, replacing more expensive AC wiring while networking LEDs and a complement of sensors. Instead of wiring the light fixture into the building’s AC electrical system, it’s simply plugged into an Ethernet port and the network.

In one fell swoop, lighting can be installed that is at once powered and connected to the internet, allowing Cree’s suite of technology and software to drive smart lighting.

“Cree is committed to delivering better light experiences for our customers,” said Norbert Hiller. “The new connected lighting technologies we’re pioneering with Cisco leverage Cree’s SmartCast Technology and the communications power of the internet to deliver better light and up to 70% more savings than standard LED lighting. With Cisco, Cree is taking Intelligent Light far beyond what’s possible with traditional lighting solutions.”

“Cisco is excited to work with Cree and the global partner community to make the Digital Ceiling framework a reality,” said Tony Shakib, vice president, IoT verticals business unit, Cisco. “Cree’s expertise is important as we make this shift in the industry to help customers in the enterprise begin to harness the benefits of network powered smart lighting solutions.”

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  • Matt

    The Internet use here is to talk to the light and it’s sensors. They are not rewiring the building. Light still gets it power from the existing AC wire. But no wires for the controllers and they are controlled from your IPad. So it is for existing buildings, notice video “the building of the future is the one you are in now”. The headline is misleading, this is not about powering thing using your internet cable. It is about controlling power hungry things (lights) with sensors that are connected wireless.

    • JamesWimberley

      I think you are wrong here, it’s a quite different technology (Cree sell both). PoE – google it – is indeed about combining data and (low) power supply from the same 4-wire Ethernet cable.

  • milliamp

    PoE should be standard in every building built today. It makes a LOT of sense when it comes to connected lighting, sensors, and IoT in general.

    A PoE LED bulb can do Li-Fi pr be controlled remotely. Need a Wireless access point in a room? Just plug it into PoE. Need to connect security cameras? PoE.

    In addition to all the other advantages it provides DC power so devices on it can do away with a having the device convert AC to DC. Wireless IoT is a mix of a bunch of constantly evolving with buggy connectivity on limited spectrum. You have to power the devices anyway so you might as well just run PoE and solve 2 problems.

    It helps you map the physical location of things like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors too since you know where the physical port is that it’s connected to. Nobody wants to constantly replace batteries in hundreds of IoT devices or not know when stuff is offline because the battery died. There are certainly not enough 120 volt AC outlets to plug in a bunch of IoT devices. Installing PoE solves a bunch of problems and for many people they are having to install Ethernet anyway.

    You can plug non-PoE equipment into PoE ports no problem too.

    • JamesWimberley

      Yes, The IoT vision of wireless networked sensors everywhere depends on finding a solution for energy harvesting from the environment, and SFIK the industry is not quite yet there. One more iteration in nanoprocessor design perhaps?

  • JamesWimberley

    The limit of the latest standard for PoE is 25 watts per circuit, so you can only really do this for a smallish setup like an office. It would not be nearly enough power for a supermarket. Still, the piggybacking on a existing standard and the involvement of an IT heavyweight like Cisco are good signs. The great obstacle to smarter homes and workplaces is technical fragmentation, with an unmanageable chaos of different and incompatible standards promoted by competing groups of vendors.

    • Kraylin

      “The great obstacle to smarter homes and workplaces is technical fragmentation”.

      I couldn’t agree more, we are currently building a smart home and of course chose one main provider to run the systems (music, tv’s/theatre, hvac, security system and cameras, as well as lighting). Even though we tried to pick a vendor from the “high end” there is only specific equipment that works “well” with their system. Additionally the standards simply keep changing. As I read articles like this I now find myself immediately thinking “Great idea, BUT, will it integrate well with the system we already have?”

  • Interesting. Makes sense that with the much lower power consumption of LEDs, most homes’ AC wiring going to light fixtures is way oversized!

    • GCO

      Except that the AC wiring is usually already in place, and for commercial buildings, often sized for energy-efficient (fluorescent) lighting already.

      Replacing basic power cables (2-wire bus, up to several kW per circuit at 240V) with Ethernet and PoE (8 wires, point-to-point / star topology, max 25 W per “circuit”) seems insanely wasteful.

      • newnodm

        The cree system is for new construction. Likely the occupancy sensor function ties to the HVAC, It looks way too complicated to be justified for just lighting.

      • Otis11

        That was my immediate thought – either they have to do 1 light-tube per connection (Meaning a ton of redundant wires) or they have to use non-standard Ethernet wires and equipment to violate the standard and provide more power per wire (which would require higher voltages as higher currents wouldn’t scale adequately… making it non-compatible with every other device.)

        I must be missing something – cuz this seems like a terrible idea…

      • milliamp

        But if you commit to both powering something and providing network connectivity to it you now have 2 problems to solve.

        People view wireless the same way the view magic and that’s far from being true. You only have some frequencies available to work with. They have transmit power, range, bandwidth, and interference limitations as well as constantly changing standards of a laundry list of different protocols.

        Frequencies good at penetrating and long range are bad at high bandwidth and subject to interference. High bandwidth frequencies are bad at penetrating obstacles.

        Cheap LED bulbs are hitting the 100 lumens/watt mark and 300lm/watt has been achieved in the lab. A 40 watt Fluorescent light is 2200 lumens, a 1500 lumen LED is 14 watts. At max efficiencies seen in the lab a 1500 lumen LED would be 5 watts.

        LED’s today have a built in power supply because they use DC power and lighting sockets are AC and this is something else PoE solves. You put one or 2 PoE switches in a room above a drop ceiling and the cable runs don’t have to be super long and the LED’s sued don’t need to convert power from an AC feed.

        You can even use the same network for workstations and telephones (and security cameras) instead of having to run a separate one.

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