Over the past two years we’ve seen Cree transition from an LED manufacturer with a presence in related industries to a major force in the LED lighting market. Now that the company has a firm footing in the consumer LED space, it has set its sights back on business with the SmartCast lighting control system.
With all the talk about LiFX and Hue, it’s easy to forget that lighting control systems were originally designed for — and are still best utilized in — very big spaces. Offices, parking garages, data centers, and factories can all benefit greatly from smart lighting controls and as businesses start to make this move en masse, Cree wants to be right there with them. SmartCast is a lighting control system that networks together up to 250 light fixtures, intelligently groups them, and gives them access to a wireless control system. It’s smart, cheap to install, efficient, and — unlike the competition — should be dead simple to operate.
What SmartCast offers businesses right now is a 70% drop in energy usage associated with their lighting compared to current fluorescent systems. As lighting is a major source of power usage for most businesses, we’re talking about serious money here. The majority of that efficiency boost will come simply from moving to LED lighting, but that’s just the first step. After that, SmartCast will use motion sensing, dimming, and daylight harvesting (dimming the lights when it’s sunny outside) to account for the other 30%.
SmartCast controllerRight now businesses know they can cut down on power usage by utilizing intelligent controls for their lighting, but most have avoided doing so because they fear the expense and complication involved. Cree recognized this and took the problem head on. The initial expense will still be considerable — there is no getting around that — but Cree was able to get SmartCast’s overall pricing down to about 40 cents per square foot. That might sound like a lot, but competitive systems sell for about double that (at least according to Cree).
The more interesting advance, at least to us non-lighting designers, is SmartCast’s simplicity. Up to 250 lights can be placed in a group, all of which are set up with a single remote control. Lights in a group can communicate with one another and, using a unique pattern of flickers, self-organize so they each know where they are relative to the rest. Then, using built-in sensors, lights can dim according to daylight conditions in their area, resulting in serious power savings. Individual zones, like a conference room, can be dimmer with a wal