Lighting is being touted as a delivery platform for Industrial Internet of Things strategies. I recently wrote an article for ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR that describes the potential role for lighting in the IIoT. Check it out here.

The article prompted a letter from Mark Schuyler, LC, principal, lighting design, MSLD, LLC. The letter criticized the approach of the article, stating it does not include a caution about the larger issues involved with IIoT implementation. I felt the issues Mark raises are important and wanted to share them with you. His letter is published below with his permission. We’re hoping it generates some discussion.

Hello Craig DiLouie,

I am a principal in a lighting design and integration firm that designs not just lighting but lighting control systems, A/V, and physical layer security design. Our clients are major North American firms, where we act both as part of a design team for facilities as well as in advisory roles.

I read your article in the June 2016 issue of Electrical Contractor. I am a long time reader of your work and a have learned a great deal from your reporting in the past.

I was disappointed in your approach to the issue of IIoT and lighting. Nowhere in the article do I find a cautionary note to the reader that explains the greater issues related to such interoperability.

Since my firm designs and oversee the actual construction of large complex projects, I understand with direct knowledge the failure of IIoT in lighting. We see that proprietary standards can succeed, but that the interoperability among many makers using an open standard that has been promised in reality does not work yet, and likely will never will.

There are significant issues related to the deployment of this interoperability. There are legal issues both for the “owners’ of such lighting systems [which may put system owners in the middle of legal discovery cases related to customer movements inside a facility]; actual ownership of data, software or even the physical devices; operating conditions which notify the manufacturer that conditions may exist onsite which void the warranty. And so forth.

Electrical contractors and system designers are put in real jeopardy in the future because of the possibilities that the system will be bricked due to a firmware upgrade; future interoperability problems, and the fact that electrical contractors are not IT departments.

The cadre of people required to maintain this type of system doesn’t currently exist. There are conflicts between the communications union and electrician unions. Most of our clients will never allow a product on site that is in control of a third party, that could capture data about anything at all regarding the Client/ Owners’ operations. Retail operators have enough trouble maintaining staffing as it is; finding an extra staff person to maintain these systems is unlikely for smaller retail operators. Actual and useful specification language needs to be developed.

Apple iPhones work because the Apple ecosystem is entirely controlled by Apple. Except for the small very specialized industrial interoperability, where engineers, designers and technicians are creating a custom machine to make things, or where analog sensors are replaced by digital ones, this ecosystem can only be built through the extremely unusual coordination of the design and build teams for these projects. This requires lots of time, cash, and a seriously motivated Owner/ Client. It requires a great deal of time to educate all the parties up and down the supply, design and build chain.

I think that there is a lot to be explored on this subject, but the solutions will not arise from the manufacturers, who are scrambling for market share and need to create a buzz for the next big thing, or in hearing from PR firms and others who have never wrestled with these issues. The designers and builders of these systems in response must now become IT managers, risk assessment managers, and educators in order to serve their clients and customers properly.

I see from your blog that you speak to a large number of industry people about the new new things. New new things are great. This is an exciting time. But it’s also time to speak frankly with the developers, engineering middle management and the real people who do this work.

Mark Schuyler