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The next dead technology–the wall light switch


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Smart lighting technology to foil copper theives

Last Sunday the Sheriff was called to our street and my wife and children watched anxiously through our front window as a deputy approached our neighbor’s house.  The house had just been sold and we met the new owners that were taking a few weeks to update the interior before moving in.  To our knowledge it was still vacant.

Before a career in patent law, I had been a criminal prosecutor out of law school and I knew to stay back until they were done.  Another deputy sheriff pulled up and came out as backup.  Finally, when both deputies started mulling around the driveway I went out to talk to them.  The alarm system had gone off again…mostly likely tripped by an in-law of the new owner’s that morning.  However, the deputies were mostly concerned that thieves might pull out all the copper in the house.  Air conditioning systems, pipes, electrical wiring and anything else with copper could be sold for scrap.  For a hundred dollars in scrap copper a thief will inflict thousands of dollars in damage getting it. According to the Coalition Against Copper Theft, a conservative estimate by the Department of Energy indicates copper wire theft costs this nation almost $1 billion per year. More importantly is the human cost with a clear and definitive link between stealing copper and illegal drug use, primarily methamphetamines.

Drop the Switch – Save the Copper

At our main office in Tampa this morning I flipped on a wall switch this morning that happened to be a four-way connection….literally hundreds of feet of copper wire was used to control the office lights above our desks.  With the IEEE 802.15.4 “GreenChip” standard this seems to be quite a waste.  Why not send a wireless signal out to each lighting device and avoid the wall switch all together?  Or, why not power a faux switch with a micro-solar panel or low-voltage line to send the signal?  If no one is in the building or room (occupancy sensing) why keep the lights on? All this would remove the heavy copper passing 120V through a switch.  This isn’t just a savings in material costs, but what about installation?  New lights can be added close to an “always-on” source of power and then controlled remotely. 


Smart Lighting Boom

imageSmart lighting is not just about cost savings but also control.  Last December Philips patented a lighting control for shops that pick up a code from a RFID tag and adjust the lighting for particular products across a chain of stores.  Thus, if a certain pair of UGG boots look great in 2,700K warm light dimmed to 300 lumens then a RFID tag will communicate to the store lighting system and automatically adjust for that product.

smart_light_US8339247.pdf (1.56 mb)

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