Home Modern design A Beginner’s Guide to Smart Commercial Lighting

A Beginner’s Guide to Smart Commercial Lighting

by Eva

Find out how LED lights and smart lighting controls are used in a wide variety of commercial lighting applications

Well thought out and well-executed lighting is important for any commercial space. More than just for aesthetics, commercial lighting needs to provide safe, comfortable, and dependable light no matter the application. Since we have learned more about the benefits of proper commercial lighting in recent years, many businesses are looking for ways to improve their lighting fixtures and lighting control systems. To better understand how recent industry developments and innovations have changed the way that businesses are approaching commercial lighting we’re going to be discussing what smart commercial lighting is and how smart lighting controls work before exploring the most commonly used types of lighting fixtures. If you are learning about commercial lighting for the first time, then keep reading! We’ve got all of the basics of commercial lighting applications covered. Let’s get started!

What is Smart Commercial Lighting?

Combining LEDs with smart lighting controls creates intuitive and energy-saving lighting applications

Smart commercial lighting creates a better environment for employees and customers.

When we talk about smart lighting, we are talking about a network of lighting fixtures connected to a smart lighting control system capable of automation and reporting. The smart lighting controls use sensors and other devices to report on and control fixtures throughout the property. Though these devices are capable of automation, a building manager is also able to input settings that fit the needs of the space. To facilitate communication between the smart lighting controls and the fixtures, each lighting fixture uses LEDs. Not only do LEDs provide superior quality lighting, but they are also able to communicate with building management systems to send and receive information. Depending on the setup of the building, your network of lights will be able to communicate either by hard-wired power over ethernet (PoE) installation or wirelessly via an Internet of Things (IoT).

By choosing intelligent lighting applications over outdated methods, businesses can improve the quality of their indoor lighting, pull important metrics from the building management system, and decrease total energy consumption. Because of these benefits, more companies are choosing to overhaul their current lighting setup in favor of something that saves on both labor and energy costs.

Since commercial lighting applications are often large projects in public transportation, healthcare facilities, warehouses, factories, retail locations, and restaurants, owners can make a significant difference in building operations and energy costs. Though overhauling a lighting system is an expensive endeavor, keeping up with an outdated system is often more expensive in the long run than an upgrade to smart lighting. 

Now that we’ve defined what smart commercial lighting is and how smart lighting controls work, let’s take a look at a few of the different types of lighting commonly used in commercial buildings.

What Are the Different Types of Commercial Lighting?

Using smart lighting controls, various types of lighting fixtures can be controlled simultaneously

A visual example of a task lighting setup.

As we previously mentioned, to take advantage of all of the benefits of smart lighting controls, LED fixtures are required. Because of the flexibility in light output, low voltage operations, and ability to communicate with a building management system LEDs are slowly becoming industry standard for all commercial properties. Here are a few examples of how LED lighting fixtures can be used in commercial buildings:

Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting is commonly used across all types of commercial developments. Previously, fluorescent CFL tubes were the most common way for large indoor spaces—like warehouses— to achieve sufficient lighting levels. Now, recessed LED fixtures can achieve the same level of light while maintaining a lower profile than CFLs and limiting heat output.

Task Lighting

Unlike recessed lighting, task lighting is designed to light a specific area of the building where a task is performed—hence the name “task” lighting. Task lighting needs to comprehensively and comfortably light an area of the building so that employees can safely and efficiently perform their daily tasks. LED task lights can be easily installed and provide employees with superior lighting capabilities when compared to incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.

Outdoor Lighting

For businesses that are looking to improve their security or improve the look of their outdoor lighting landscape, smart LED fixtures are the perfect solution. There are a few different types of lighting fixtures that will improve outdoor lighting for large and small properties. 

Shoebox lights—for example—are used as parking lots or street lighting and can better illuminate these spaces at night time, creating a safer environment for all employees and visitors. LED flood lights are used to illuminate the exterior of a building and can be customized to create compelling lighting packages. One of the big advantages of using LEDs for exterior lighting is that they can change color without making any physical changes to the fixtures. By using a building management system, operators can instantly adjust lighting colors. This is extremely useful for tourist attractions and event spaces that are required to adjust lighting based on special occasions or changing seasons. 

Wall pack lights can also be used to illuminate the exterior of a building, though these lights are usually much smaller and are mostly used to illuminate parking spaces. Most commercial properties will require all three types of outdoor lighting in some capacity to complete their lighting profile.

Track Lighting

Track lighting is another common commercial lighting application. Used frequently in museums and retail spaces, track lighting can be adjusted as the interior space changes. When companies use LED track lights, they can adjust the direction, brightness, and color of the light making it the most flexible lighting option for spaces that change frequently.


Smart lighting applications are not necessarily limited to large-scale upgrades, implementing smart tech at a desk level is also beneficial for both employees and managers. Desk lamps using LED lights can better illuminate a workspace and can be controlled remotely by any worker using a smart device. That way, if someone forgets to turn off a lamp at their workspace, they can use a device to remotely turn the light off—as long as there is an internet connection.

What Are the Best Practices for Lighting Commercial Spaces?

Before businesses begin overhauling their lighting, it is important to research commercial lighting best practices

Lighting design needs to fit the needs of all employees and visitors.

While it is important to update lighting to LEDs to get the best lighting quality and conserve energy, lighting design is just as important. Without a clear vision, businesses can easily encounter issues once the new lighting is installed. That’s why we’re reviewing a few lighting design principles to pay attention to while designing smart commercial lighting applications.

Decide on a Lighting Profile

The first thing that should be done when planning a commercial lighting installation or overhaul is goal setting. What do you want to achieve with lighting? What do you want people to think/feel when they enter space? Try brainstorming a few characteristics you want for your lighting and begin to work out the lighting design based on those characteristics. For example, a restaurant space will require cozy, warm lighting while a warehouse space will require bright and efficient lighting. By first deciding on a lighting profile, businesses can get a clearer idea of how to proceed with the installation in terms of lighting fixtures and lighting placement.

Use Lighting to Promote Sales in Retail Spaces

For brick and mortar retail businesses, lighting is extremely important for enticing customers. In retail lighting, it is essential for businesses to properly light their store so their products look appealing both on display inside of the store and in the windows. Every retail space relies heavily on lighting design to make sure all of the products are attractive to potential customers. It is also important that retail lighting is flexible, as store setups and product inventory are constantly changing. 

Avoid Overlighting

One of the easiest mistakes businesses make when it comes to lighting design is overlighting. With all of the innovations and lighting controls, it can be easy to apply too many lighting elements at once. Businesses need to keep in mind that overlighting and clashing lighting creates a messy look—which is definitely not the goal for a new lighting installation.

While this is far from a complete overview of smart commercial lighting applications, we hope that you learned a few of the basic principles and a bit more about how smart lighting works. As  businesses continue to update their lighting, smart LED fixtures will slowly become the industry standard for all types of commercial properties. If your business is still using outdated lighting, the best time to upgrade is right now!

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