Networked Lighting: LEDs Via Communication Cables

The future of lighting in commercial buildings is digital, networked and intelligent. That’s according to Dave Leonard, co-founder and CEO of lighting management startup Redwood Systems, a 2-year-old company that makes a control and sensor system for LEDs (light emitting diodes) that runs over an optimized version of ethernet cables. The company launched its flagship Redwood Engine product at Lightfair just last week and plans to start selling its first commercial product this summer.

While Leonard says the company has received a lot of interest from residential building suppliers, it’s really commercial building owners that will benefit from Redwood’s LED lighting control systems. Commercial building owners, like Redwood System’s first publicly announced customer Unico Properties in San Francisco, can use the control and management system to dramatically cut the amount of lighting used throughout the building — in some cases up to 70 percent over standard non-networked fluorescent lighting systems. LEDs themselves are more efficient than fluorescents, but Redwood’s management system monitors the building environment, including temperature and room occupancy, and can dim and manage the lights to help maximize efficiency.

Leonard, who left Cisco’s wireless division to start Redwood Systems, says using the optimized communications cable enables the company to send both a digital signal (zeros and ones of information) as well as power. Each LED fixture houses an embedded sensor that can monitor the environment of the room, and the LEDs are connected to the centralized Redwood computing engine. Leonard says the system has also been developed to be easily configured, so that a cable network operator could install it.

Sounds smart, easy and efficient, right? So why wouldn’t all building owners that are installing LEDs buy this? Well, remember first that the company is still in an early phase. While Redwood Systems already raised $12 million from Battery Ventures and U.S. Venture Partners, Leonard tells us the company is looking to raise more money this summer. It hasn’t started selling product on commercial scale and has only announced one customer, though Leonard says that the company will soon announce several more large “recognizable” Silicon Valley names.

There’s also a variety of competitors that are offering similar lighting management systems. Digital Lumens offers an LED lighting management system for industrial buildings, warehouses and storage facilities. Adura Technologies has created a lighting management system that runs over wireless networks. Then there are the large building automation companies like Honeywell and Johnson Controls that are also looking to offer lighting management systems.

Leonard says the building automation giants are potential partners — as is Leonard’s alma mater: Cisco. Cisco bought building network automation company Richards Zeta last year and has been rapidly expanding its smart grid divisions, and Leonard thinks there could be some “good synergy” with Cisco. Or perhaps the entrepreneur could even one day find himself back at the Cisco headquarters, if the notoriously aggressive computing giant really fancies Redwood System’s LED lighting control tech.

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