The following article was published by Inbuilding Magazine on September 20, 2017.
The Next Wave
NuLEDs aims to make buildings smarter and seamlessly connected with its PoE lighting systems.
By Bianca Herron
Chris and Lisa Isaacson founded NuLEDs in 2011. With their backgrounds in low-voltage LED lighting and control technology, and design engineering, the Isaacsons combined their talents to create a diverse technology company.
Today, NuLEDs is a leader in power-over-ethernet (PoE) lighting systems aimed at making buildings smarter and seamlessly connected.
The Carlsbad, Calif.-based company is an innovator in LED lighting systems, developing serially interfaced, low voltage controllers, and IT-based LED lighting systems.
A big break for NuLEDs came in 2011 when Cisco approached them to develop this technology. In January of 2012, NuLEDs delivered the first PoE lighting system to Cisco that could be both powered and controlled from an ethernet network. Chief Business Development Officer Lisa Isaacson says the lighting and electrical industry has never been the same since, and the company is excited to play a part in it.
“Initially, we thought people would be skeptical,” she says. “However, when we first started talking about it to electrical and lighting companies, everyone said it made sense. We’ve been watching the company and the technology grow ever since.”
NuLEDs has customers across the nation and globally, including in London, Scotland and Dubai. Isaacson attributes the company’s growth to multiple partnerships with Cisco and other large electrical and lighting manufacturers including Eaton, USLED, and Deco Lighting.
“It has certainly changed the way lighting is installed and controlled,” she says. “Most of the major lighting companies have come on board, and have either developed their own power-over-ethernet lighting module, or partnered with companies like NuLEDs to offer their lighting product line of PoE-ready fixture.”
NuLEDs’ system is designed around its module, the SPICEbox™, (Single Packet Illumination Control Environment) which converts PoE power to drive LEDs and sensors. “The internet of things is all about sensors,” Isaacson says. “So as more sensors become available you can plug them into the nearest SPICEbox™, upgrade your firmware and then add more intelligence to your building.”
She notes that running additional wires and adding new sensors aren’t necessary, which helps eliminate installation costs. “The category five or category six cable can send both power and data to LEDs,” she explains. “The hardware costs are a bit more expensive because you are buying the Ethernet switches and modules; however, it’s offset by the installation savings.”
Innovation On Purpose
Although NuLEDs’ goal is to create “really intelligent” buildings, it goes beyond lighting, Isaacson insists. “Lighting is a great backbone to build on because it’s everywhere,” she says. “However, we’re also powering other low-voltage loads beyond lighting that are all a part of the building system.”
Ultimately, it’s about getting a building to communicate directly through the sensors – to all of the loads – to create the most efficient and intelligent building possible, she adds. “My vision is to continue partnering with companies that have building systems within a building that are low voltage, including HVAC systems,” Isaacson explains. “We’re powering ceiling fans and window actuators now, and they’re all on our network and controlled through network protocol.”
One of NuLEDs recent projects is set up so that skylights open at night to let in fresh air. “The customer won’t have to turn on the air conditioner as early in the morning she says. “They also are implementing kelvin-tunable lights. This system runs through a circadian rhythm cycle throughout the day, and the sensors change the brightness levels.”
Not only can each LED lamp be controlled and monitored separately, but occupancy sensors can also turn off the lights when no one is in the space. Colored LEDs can also be controlled on the network to create effects. By using red, green and blue LEDs combined at different brightness levels, more than 16 million colors can be created, Isaacson notes.
“All of our controllers are 4-channel systems or more,” she says. “We have multiple channels so customers can create RGB [red, green, blue] or kelvin-tunable loads. We now have projects utilizing RGB lighting to mimic the sky. In an indoor environment, we’re re-creating the sunrise and sunset. So the lights will turn orange in the evening, for example.”
She adds that the IT-based lighting system industry is developing rapidly, and NuLEDs is excited to be a part of it. “I think there’s a great opportunity for networking companies and networking entrepreneurs to get into this space and be able to take on, manage and support these projects from cradle to the grave,” Isaacson concludes. “This is great technology, and we’re super fans of it.”