The light industry is often an overlooked topic in the tech world, where smartphones, autonomous vehicles, and IoT devices dominate headlines. Nonetheless, with the numerous new electric and digital innovations of today, lighting is now catching up. These days, lighting isn’t just about providing light—it’s a carrier for innovations and an innovation in itself. The evolution of lighting has come a long way, and we’ve only scratched the surface of its numerous technological and real day implications.
Trends that Resulted from the Evolution of Lighting
Lighting is now powered not just by electricity but also by decentralized power supplies. Nowadays, people are less dependent on electrical power grids.
Many also draw power from solar panels. (In fact, as of February 2017, there were about 1.3 million solar installations all across the United States.) The trend of solar panels is catching on as it’s a green source of energy and can reduce energy costs significantly. Plainly, this fact shows only the tip of the iceberg in smart lighting trends.
In the evolution of lighting, there is also a significant shift from using CFL—Compact Fluorescent Light—bulbs to LED—Light-Emitting Diode—devices. CFLs are basically miniature fluorescent lights bulbs (mirroring the size of standard-issue incandescent light bulbs), and this means that they still consume energy even when they’re off. LEDs, on the other hand, only use energy when an electrical current passes through them. They can be rapidly be switched on and off by computerized microcontrollers. These lights are known for their programmability. LEDs also emit less heat and can last longer than CFLs. Because of all these benefits, LED adoption is on the rise—especially now that LED prices have also been declining.
Smart technology is indeed changing the way how light is being used. Truly, smart lighting trends have veritably come to light (pun intended!). Lights are no longer limited to the words “on” and “off.”
There are lights that change color and intensity according to temperature and surroundings. There’s also light control through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, smart hubs or smart speakers. You can now access and control lights remotely with a smartphone or tablet. (Some can indeed function as a speaker and can add to your home security.) Even now, lighting adds another dimension to its use through its increased convenience, versatility, and reduced power consumption.
Lighting creates an important impact on everything from selling products, the productivity of students in schools, workforce efficiency, and presentation of food. Common examples include how Tiffany’s use lights to showcase its diamonds and jewelry. Car dealerships are using lighting in their showrooms to highlight their vehicles. Restaurants such as PDQ are now using lighting as a differentiator for consistent and focal ambiance. There are also the health-related advantages of LED lighting in the workplace, which can help prevent eye strain and migraine style headaches.
Brands Leading the Way in Innovations in Smart Lighting Trends
General Electric Co. has now stepped foot into the world of smart technology with its lighting products. In September 2017, it released the C by GE Sol, a table lamp powered by smart speaker Amazon’s Alexa. In fact, it functions exactly like a smart speaker that happens to light a room. GE claims that it is not just an innovation in the evolution of lighting but a new way of living. There is no need for a separate Echo unit or hub, as the Sol serves as the smart speaker.
Acuity Brands, on the other hand, is weaving technology into architecture and has one of the most extensive product portfolios. The Atlanta based company is creating a sensory network in buildings in the hopes that these buildings would eventually integrate into a smart city. A sensory network is the LED lighting infrastructure that integrates with mobile phones to deliver analytical insight into foot traffic. Airports may adopt this indoor technology to make them more energy-efficient. Thus, in spaces where there is less traffic, lights can be dimmed or turned off, essentially saving energy. One of Acuity Brands popular products is its Juno FlexConnect miniature silicon optics for grazing, washing and other accent applications.
Another company, LumaStream, believes that LED is the future of lighting and they are doing it in a different way than any other manufacturer. LumaStream differentiates itself by offering the industry’s first low-voltage power solution to lengthen LED lifespans, increase efficiency, and achieve new levels of performance and control. The St. Petersburg, FL company is able to implement driverless LED light fixtures with smart controls and low-voltage power distributions controlling up to 24 fixtures from up to 150ft away. LumaStream provides a complete low-voltage solution allowing businesses to shrink their operating expenses through reduced electrical infrastructure and low voltage distribution instead of AC to DC at every fixture. Their solution also allows installers to utilize low-voltage class 2 wiring for power, control, and dimming. Therefore, technicians do not have to be electricians to install.
One such business that was impressed by the company’s lighting solution was Tesla. After vetting LumaStream for over 18 months, Tesla chose LumaStream’s lighting solution against other all products in the industry to light their showrooms. As LumaStream’s Chairman of the Board and Founder, Eric Higgs notes, “The market has created a perfect storm of opportunity due to poor fixtures, lots of heat output, the need for heavy infrastructure wiring.”
Signify, formerly Philips Lighting, has developed an alternative for stable and fast broadband connection through light waves. As devices are even more connected today, the radio spectrum can become highly congested. Light Fidelity, or LiFi, uses light waves to transmit data wirelessly. LiFi would be instrumental in places where communication is critical in everyday operations—such as in banks, hospitals, factories, and corporate offices. Smart!
Smart Cities and Smart Thinking in the Evolution of Lighting
A smart city would require dense wireless connectivity to power traffic lights, water, and streetlights. When people talk about smart lighting trends, what comes to mind is traffic-sensitive lighting. Lampposts would cut down on power costs by dimming their light when there are no people within their proximity.
Smart lighting trends are also a platform for many IoT initiatives that can power a city. Like what was previously mentioned, utility providers can use the network of streetlights to reduce power consumption by intelligently adjusting usage. Lampposts can also hold cells that connect sensors to manage traffic, and even to monitor water flow and address flood abatement.
These smart LED streetlights are also instrumental in upholding safety in cities. As LEDs emit more light, fewer street crimes and accidents occur. The city of Los Angeles attributed the 10.5 percent drop in night crime—that is, 7 pm to 7 am—from 2009 to 2011 to improved street lighting.
Lighting Trends and Everyday Living
Truly, lighting will remain necessary and crucial in today’s world. As Higgs also points out, “Everyone needs lighting, but not everyone needs a $5,000 loudspeaker.”
As smart lighting is a platform for smart city interoperability, it can support and connect IoT, sensors, and radios which businesses, homes, and whole cities use. Each connected light point sends and receives data, generating insights required to power cities. LED lighting can connect to the internet or the cloud, allowing easy integration with other smart tech devices. These street lights ultimately form a neural network that runs and manages cities. That network then becomes a massive system optimizing traffic and transport systems and monitoring public safety.
Incorporating efficient smart lighting trends is always the first step in developing smart cities because this readies the adoption of other IoT initiatives. Indeed, the future and evolution of lighting are heading towards smart applications to create societies that are highly innovative, environmentally safe, and foster a sustainable approach to energy consumption for everyday living.