By: Craig DiLouie
Lighting has long been considered the “silent sales person” in retail applications, promoting wayfinding and guiding customers to key merchandise. Now a new technology is emerging that will put lighting in an even more direct sales role.
Visible light communication (VLC) is an emerging technology that enables one-way communication between intelligent LED lighting and user smartphones and tablets that feature a special app. The technology uses rapid, instantaneous pulsing (on/off cycles) at frequencies undetectable to the human eye to transmit data and provides two capabilities ideally suited to big box retail applications. The first is way finding: The lighting system provides indoor GPS-like functionality that enables the lighting to guide consumers around the store. The second is communication of targeted sales information: As a customer passes products in the aisles, his or her phone would receive coupons, recipes, and other offers.
According to Deloitte Consulting (deloitte.com), in 2012, more than 60% of mobile shoppers used smartphones while in the store, and 85% of consumers were using retailers’ native apps or websites during shopping trips According to Deloitte Consulting (deloitte.com), in 2012, more than 60% of mobile shoppers used smartphones while in the store, and 85% of consumers were using retailers’ native apps or websites during shopping trips To follow are three solutions now being demonstrated by major lighting manufacturers:
1. Philips Lighting recently demonstrated its “connected lighting system” at EuroShop and Lightfair. The LED luminaires form a dense network that not only provides lighting but also acts as a positioning grid. Each luminaire is identifable and able to communicate its position to an app on a shopper’s smart device.
“The beauty of the system is that retailers do not have to invest in additional infrastructure to house, power, and support location beacons for indoor positioning,” said Gerben van der Lugt, manager. “The light fixtures themselves can communicate this information by virtue of their presence ever where in the store.”
2. GE Lighting is collaborating with VLC technology pioneer Byte-Light to demonstrate “LED infrastructure” that will be available in the next generation of GE LED luminaires GE demonstrated the technology, which uses a combination of VLC and Bluetooth for communication, at Lightfair. The lighting can communicate with smartphones and tablets with a camera.
“GE Lighting’s next generation of LEDs will not only save energy and maintenance costs, but also be a strategic enabler to combining big data with location to deliver a more engaging shopping experience that increases customer loyalty and value,” said Jaime Irick, general manager of North America Professional Solutions.
3. Acuity Brands developed its own system using its eldoLED driver platform partnered with Lumicast technology from Qualcomm Technologies, a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated. Like Philips and GE, Acuity demonstrated the system at Lightfair and is currently engaging top retailers to conduct proof-of-concept testing. Lumicast determines a mobile user’s location within 10 centimeters, as well as the user’s orientation within the aisle.
“This new technology allows LED lighting to be an asset for retailers, not only because of the productivity gains, energy savings, and environment improvements it provides, but also because of its emerging capacity for enhancing and changing in-store customer experiences,” explained Steve Lydecker, senior vice president. “Guiding the shopper through the store based on the shopper’s actual position, VLC technology opens the door for retailers to more effectively engage and influence consumers on the retail floor.”
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