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Redwood Systems intelligent building tech: Part security guard, part energy saver

As I was reading my notes and other materials to write this blog post, it occurred to me that in the future, the concept of using a light switch might be one of those antiquated habits that are a generational giveaway. That is, if the sorts of capabilities promised by the intelligent LED lighting and building control solutions developed by Redwood Systems achieve widespread adoption over the next decade.
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Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

As I was reading my notes and other materials to write this blog post, it occurred to me that in the future, the concept of using a light switch might be one of those antiquated habits that are a generational giveaway. That is, if the sorts of capabilities promised by the intelligent LED lighting and building control solutions developed by Redwood Systems achieve widespread adoption over the next decade.

The reason I'm thinking about Redwood Systems today is that the company has announced three "strategic" new customer installations at Atheros Communications, Johnson Controls, and Fenwick & West. (The technology is also being used at SAP Labs.) I chatted with Dave Leonard, Redwood Systems CEO and cofounder, and Sam Klepper, Redwood Systems CMO, about some of the applications that these and other companies are using.

Redwood Systems is a maker of intelligent lighting controls and building management systems. Some of the applications it enables -- such as daylight harvesting, which dims and brightens lights according to sunlight conditions -- are things you've probably already heard about before and may or many not already use. But here are some of the other things that Redwood Systems' technologies enables if you think out of the box a bit, according to Leonard and Klepper:

  • Safer hallway lighting: I know I am totally dating myself, but remember that scene in the "Mission Impossible" television credits sequence, where the hall dims after Maxwell Smart passes certain sections? This is something that Redwood enables, which means you can keep an infrequently used hallway dim, and it will brighten up when someone enters. As a woman, I'm digging this application for safety and energy-efficiency reasons.
  • Data center security: You can apply the same sensor-controlled lighting to a data center, setting the system so the lights come on only when someone is present. And if someone is present when they SHOULDN'T be present, you can set the system to alert the data center manager via a smart phone application.
  • Smarter conference rooms: Speaking of smartphones, how about being able to control the curtains and lights for a conference room, simply by selecting a preset configuration via a Web application? So, you could set a room for presentation mode much more quickly. Want to know whether the room you booked for your important client meeting is really open before an embarrassing confrontation? You can also get a better handle on conference room occupancy, because the sensors can be linked to your conference room scheduling calendar in Google to indicate which ones are empty (or not).
  • Critical versus non-critical lighting zones: This one will be particularly relevant for any business that is sited in a region that has frequent demand response events. In the event of a brownout, your company could simply select a configuration that keeps essential lights on, while letting everything else go dark.

"Overall, our technology gives you the ability to sense environments within a building," Leonard said.

Here are some things to know about installing Redwood Systems technology:

  • You'll need to go whole hog; including investing in new sensors for the various applications you're using.
  • The Redwood Systems executives figure it takes about an hour to enable one floor in a typical building, because the system doesn't require an electrician to install.

Redwood Systems isn't the only intelligent building technology system in town, of course, but it is definitely taking a broader view of this opportunity than many of the other vendors I've interviewed recently.

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