Electrical Business

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Lighting’s role in a connected security strategy

April 30, 2020 | By Bill Maginas

Systems integration is on the rise

While a building’s individual security systems are designed to perform specific functions on their own, one of the most effective ways to enhance overall safety and increase their operational capabilities is by integrating them with other building systems.

This trend is currently on the rise, with 41% of Canadian respondents to Johnson Controls’ 2018 Energy Efficiency Indicator (EEI) survey indicating they planned to invest in building systems integration within the following year.

Integration in this regard refers to the process of connecting multiple building systems—each having previously operated in its own ‘silo’—together to function as one entity. Once this has been done, they can communicate and work in tandem with each other to provide real-time data, including insights that can help streamline operations, enhance efficiency and, in the context of security, bolster safety for both occupants and visitors.

One quintessential example of how systems integration can help increase the overall function and performance of individual safety technologies is to combine security, fire and life safety systems with a building’s existing lighting infrastructure.


Since lighting is already installed throughout a facility and around the premises’ outer perimeter, it provides a framework that allows other technologies to easily be integrated with the existing infrastructure. Indeed, it is an ideal platform for security applications.

Further, many buildings have recently been upgrading their lighting systems with integration in mind. In the aforementioned 2018 EEI survey, 53% of Canadian respondents indicated lighting improvements, including connected networks, are among the top energy-efficiency measures planned for the following year. This support demonstrates an understanding of the importance and benefits of integrated lighting, which can include security upgrades.

Integration advantages

Integrating security, fire and life safety technologies with lighting systems allows facility managers to more easily track both people and assets, identify suspicious activities and communicate with key stakeholders in the event of an emergency.

The following applications are a few examples that demonstrate how connected lighting can help increase safety and enhance security measures:

Occupancy sensors

Integrating lighting with sensors can help with the aforementioned capability to track people and assets throughout a facility.

After they are mounted to existing lighting fixtures, networked sensors can monitor building activity and occupancy levels, detect fire, smoke and carbon monoxide (CO2) and even pinpoint unusual sounds, such as a gunshot. When a sensor detects a hazard or senses abnormal behaviour, it can trigger an alarm to notify security personnel or other staff. In an emergency scenario like an active shooter situation, pre-programmed systems can be key in pinpointing a dangerous area and relaying that location-specific information in time to save lives.

Mass notification

Mass notification systems allow for direct communication to a large group of people at once—and when they are connected with lighting, their capabilities can expand even further.

When connected, these systems can gather and share important information so as to determine, relay and even illuminate the best route to guide occupants to safety. This capability is a critical asset for facilities, as knowing an occupant’s specific location within a building can lead to the best course of action in an emergency situation.

Communications can also reach outside contacts. In the event of a fire, for example, connected systems can alert emergency responders so they can address the situation as quickly as possible.

Video surveillance

Proper lighting is also essential for video surveillance to function well. Inadequate lighting, after all, impedes image quality, limits what cameras can capture, especially at night, and hampers the ability of advanced digital technology to garner video analytics and real-time insights when it comes to identifying suspicious or criminal behaviour and activities.

LEDs, specifically, are a great way to improve surveillance camera performance. They produce bright white light that illuminates objects and reflects colours more clearly than with incandescent lights. A well-lit area is less susceptible to crime or intruders and helps deter unwanted visitors.

Illuminating the path to a safer facility

As the trend toward connected, ‘smarter’ facilities grows, it is worthwhile for building owners to make use of their pre-existing infrastructure and systems as they evaluate how these and additional technologies can work together to mitigate risk and safeguard occupants.

Certainly, the potential benefits of integrating security, fire and life safety systems with lighting infrastructure should not be overlooked when implementing building upgrades. While traditional lighting’s functions may seem basic at first glance, connected lighting systems can indeed provide the foundation for a multi-layered, comprehensive approach to security and lead the way to a safer facility.


Bill Maginas is president of Johnson Controls’ Canadian business, with responsibility for its long-term growth strategy. He focuses on a breadth of technologies in the security, fire, life safety and HVAC industries. Prior to joining Johnson Controls, he spent 17 years at Honeywell in a variety of roles, including leading the company’s Building Solutions business in Canada and managing high-growth regions like Brazil, Mexico and Colombia. For more information, visit www.johnsoncontrols.com.

This article was published in the December 2019 issue of Electrical Business.

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