Much has already been written about the digital change we are currently experiencing and the additional challenges caused by the worldwide Covid19 pandemic have only reinforced the need towards this digital change. We previously mentioned that lighting was reaching its Kodak moment and with most of the world now “forced” to work from home and restricted in movement, the digital virtual world has become a reality for everyone. Meetings are conducted in digital space, communication and monitoring is happening through wireless connectivity and the additional health precautions require social distancing and touch free operations. Lighting is poised to play a big role in this new world reality.
Lighting, the designated host for our digital future
Lighting has in recent times become the number one contender to be the infra-structural host for all things smart in architectural spaces. The basic needs for smart systems are a power provision, connectivity and a known location. Lighting has all that. It is present in every space that is used by people, we know its location and is highly connected. The physical presence of lighting in every space therefore provides an ideal structure to integrate smart components. It is therefore no surprise that lighting is now becoming the designated host for our digital future.
The lighting challenge
Many of the leading lighting manufacturers are launching themselves at full speed into the development new generation smart lighting fixtures. The smartness predominatly being its ability to integrate data connectivity and sensor devices into the lighting fixture design. The biggest challenge in doing so is of course to maintain the integrity of the the actual lighting performance. By integrating sensors, control and connectivity interfaces within the lighting fixture design, space has to be found that does not compromise the basic lighting function.
From lighting to data
What we see happening is that the data fuctions incorporated in a lighting fixture are going to overtake its primary lighting function in importance. While this may sound contradictory for a lighting fixture, one just have to use the mobile phone as a comparison. The (mobile) phone initially was designed and only used for its “phone” function, today no-one buys a mobile phone for its phone-ability but for its data functionality, its connectivity, its apps and functions. The same is prone to happen with the lightinhg fixture in the years to come. The need for data management will overtake the lighting functions and hence priorities in “lighting design” will shift accordingly.
New players in the market
Interestingly, we have found that there are now also many new players in the smart lighting market that originate from outside the lighting industry, mostly from the world of smart controls and network infra-structures. Many of those simply adding lighting control functions to their smart infra-structure and with that suddenly become a major player in the lighting industry. Amazon (Web Services), Google and Apple are the well known “top of the iceberg” names when it comes to those entering the smart lighting market.
Lighting Design of Things (LDoT)
This is why a new breed of lightng designers is needed with one of its important tasks of being the guardian of good quality lighing design and making sure the lighting still complies with all applicable standards and codes of practices. The Lighting Designer of Things will have the critical but ever so important task to manage this integration process of merging the world of smart IoT devices with architectural lighting. LDoT is fast gaining acceptance in the lighting industry that for now is dominated by vendor driven solutions. With smart protocols becoming more open and interconnectivity between systems slowly becoming a necessity, the need for independent professional consultancy is growing.
Key to data gathering are the various sensor elements and with the technology fast improving, allowing miniaturisation and multi-functionality, it is resulting in ever smaller and more performing sensors. Multifunctional all-in-one sensors that can capture (day) lighting levels, presence and motion (occupancy), temperature, humidity, air-quality, sound, indoor positioning, bluetooth and IR signals are now available for integration offering vaste opportunities for lighting integrated infra-structures that goes way beyond just lighting control!
The key of course is what to do with all the data that is being collected. The information is both in real time as well as historic, which means that not only monitoring and alert functions are available but also user patterns and behaviours can be detected and analysed over time to improve space usage. Proper data analytics can then drive lighting controls, lighting scenes, air conditioining, air quality and actual space usage, resulting in more efficient use of all things energy and space as well as creating more human comfort.
Post Covid19 world
In the new post Covid19 pandemic world, we are seeing that these smart digital infra-structures are providing new opportunities as well. The need for “safe and healthy” environments as well as human wellbeing in general has created new demands that vary from the ability to clean spaces with UVC lighting, create more natural daylight in support of our personal wellbeing (circadian rhythms)
as well as hands free controls and social distancing.
Smart UVC lighting
With the high and easy transmission rate of the Covid19 virus, cleaning of spaces and objects frequently used or touched is becoming a very high priority, not in the least to give people the peace of mind that ths concern is being addressed and taken care of by the owner or facilities management. Exposure to UVC lighting for predetermined time has been proven to be the most cost efficient and effective method for disinfecting spaces from any bacteria or virus, including Covid19. While mobile equipment in the form of robots or trolleys are being used as expensive short term solutions, integration of UVC in permanent smart lighting design is the cost effective solution for the longer term. As direct exposure to UVC is harmful to the human body, special absence sensors are required to safely operate the UVC lights. Current motion sensors are deemed unsafe as they require manual timer set ups to activate the lights only once everyone has left the space. These smart sensors can easily be integrated as part of any smart lighting infra-structure.
Finally looking after our health and wellbeing has prompted owners, operators and facilities managers to look at ways to improve living and working conditions by providing better lighting by replicating or even streaming natural day light in spaces otherwise deprived of daylight. The new digital age allows for Spotify-like lighting applications, streaming daylight from any location in the world via video link through “light-speakers”. This new patented approach is currently being devloped for commercial use and will be one of the many applications available as Light-as-a-Service!