2013 Review: Smart Lighting Changing the Way We Experience Light

Lighting is no longer just about providing enough light in a given space, but rather about allowing users to both feel and experience light in ways that can benefit their health and mood. LED technology is making es smart lighting possible.

The traditional concept of lighting design is to illuminate a space, with less concern placed on the color of the light produced. Most bulbs produce a white light with either a neutral/cool tone or a warm tone. The color appearance of the white light usually remains fixed over the light life span of the light bulb. People’s perception of light however is slowly changing as there is recognition that different spaces have different colors needs, which could change depending on time or event. Recent studies done by Philips Lighting and Osram have also shown that color temperature has an effect on heath, mood, and productivity. 

Phillips' Dynamic Lighting series focuses on light's impact on the productivity and mood of employees. (photo courtesy: Philips)

Light has both psychological and physiological effects on humans. It can regulate our circadian rhythm, which constitutes the body’s biological clock and regulation of hormones. Studies have shown that the amount of exposure to light, the duration of exposure, and proper light/dark patterns are important to the way we function. Swedish researchers, in a comparison of blue light and caffeine effects on cognitive function and alertness in humans, two Swedish researchers from Mid Sweden University have found that the brain reacts to blue light much the way it does towards coffee.  In a controlled test group, researchers C. Martyn Beaven and Johan Ekstrom these researchers found that the group of test subjects in a room with blue light had better attentiveness and accuracy than the group that was given caffeine under white light. Natural lighting has also been shown to result in higher productivity with workers, as well as fewer illnesses and overall happier moods. Offices which have installed lighting that adjusts according to the natural progression of sunlight throughout the day have noted an increase in the productivity of their employees and work satisfaction.

With changing lighting concepts towards lighting changing, there is a trend of manufacturers moving towards the smart lighting market. Phillips Hue was one of the first smart lighting technologies to be launched in on the market. Hue allows users to adjust light color as well as set light to gradually brighten or dim overtime. Following Hue, various other manufactures began to release their smart lighting products. Companies such as LIFX and Digital Lumen launched LED bulbs similar to Hue that can be controlled via smartphone to adjust light bulb color. Other companies went a more creative route. AwoX recently launched their new StriimLight LED bulb with built-in Bluetooth speaker. Controllers developed by other companies are also helping the shift towards smart lighting. Goldee has launched a smart lighting controller than transforms the home’s light switch into a sensor which is able to detect movement and the time of day. Companies are hoping that through smart lighting, they can add value and differentiate their products from others on the market. 
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A Glimpse to Philips Hue Lights
LIFX Flipping the Switch on Corporate Competitors with Its LED Smart Bulbs

Goldee Reveals the World’s Smartest Light Switch

Recent technological breakthroughs have advanced the usage of smart lighting past color tuning. LED light bulbs can now act as data sources and transmit information. Li-Fi for example is able to transmit data through streams of visible light that connect to electronic devices through the internet. The LED bulbs are equipped with microchip which enables them to send data through pulses of light at a rate of 150 mbps, faster than the current connection speed in China and the U.S. average of 8.8 mbps. The technology was developed by Professor Harold Hass from the University of Edinburg in 2011. The technology is still in the early stages of research and development and is not expected to reach store shelves any time soon.
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LED Takes Internet to the Next Level with Li-Fi

Li-Fi transmits data through streams of visible light that connect to electronic devices. (photo courtesy: Boston University)

The future of light will not just be to illuminate spaces. S,mart lighting adds a new level of comfort and convenience to our lives. It allows us to change the hue of light to suit our mood, the time of day, and the needs of the room. Light can also be used as a transmitter for information, which can provide localized internet connectivity throughout a building and provide internet to remote areas off the grid. but can also be used to transmit information , reflect our mood, and improve the quality of our lives. “Forecasts suggest that smart lighting will become one of the key trends in the context of the Internet of Things,” said Heikki Ailisto, VTT research professor in Mobile Interaction Technology. Smart lighting will be a trend worth watching in the next few years as technology matures and consumer acceptance increases.

Author: Leah Allen, Translator and Editor, LEDinside

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