BU Team Wins First Annual Smart Lighting Challenge


Winners Felipe Spinel, Ahmad Nawasrah, Connor McEwen, and Parker Fox, left to right.
Winners Felipe Spinel, Ahmad Nawasrah, Connor McEwen, and Parker Fox, left to right.

Ten teams of students from several colleges came together on Saturday to compete in the first annual Smart Lighting Challenge, held at the Boston University School of Management. The winners of the competition were BU students Connor McEwen (EE’14), Felipe Spinel (SMG’12), Parker Fox (SMG’12) and Ahmad Nawasrah (SMG’12), who showcased their ideas for utilizing smart lighting for grocery store cart analytics and communication.

The competition’s challenge was to present the most compelling argument for the development, improvement or deployment of the GreenLight Concept, an LED lighting device developed by the National Science Foundation Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center (ERC) at BU. GreenLight Concept is not only more energy-efficient than conventional lighting, but also features bulbs with IP addresses that can be controlled over the internet as part of a building-wide lighting system.

The winning team’s idea was to install touchscreens on the shopping carts of large-scale grocery stores such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Upon entering the store, a customer would swipe his loyalty card into the touchscreen, which would then recognize that customer and his unique shopping habits. As the customer moved through the store, the touchscreen would interact with the smart lighting technology to pinpoint the customer’s exact location and offer tailored promotions and sales based on his buying preferences and which items he was viewing at that moment.

“Throughout the challenge, I gained experience by taking an exciting piece of technology and applying it to something marketable,” said Connor McEwen, member of the first place team. “I was familiar with the technology and had a good understanding of its capabilities. The creative ideas of my teammates combined with my engineering background allowed our team to develop a real world solution unique to smart lighting, and come up with a business plan to implement it.”

Other finalists in the competition included the second runners-up, a group from Tufts University’s Fletcher School that described how smart lighting could be used to benefit the hospitality sector by increasing energy efficiency and decreasing labor costs. The first runners-up were a team from BU consisting of Darash Desai (BME’14), Brede Wegener (ME’11), Anne Morelli (SMG’11) and Will Yoon (LAW’11), that devised a plan to use smart lighting in casinos to help employees locate empty drinks, help management control the light intensity to draw attention to certain sections of the casino floor, and improve the customer experience by making it easier to locate restrooms and other areas of interest.

The panel of judges for the final round included keynote speaker Robert F. Karlicek, Jr., director of the ERC and ECE Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Professor Thomas Little (ECE), associate director of the ERC; Tracey Estabrook (ENG’86,GSM’98), global product manager for Philips Color Kinetics; and John Dotson, vice president and general counsel at Chevron Energy Solutions. Representatives from corporations such as Raytheon, Pfizer and New England Clean Energy Council were also in attendance.