A tech revolution is happening in lighting – and the speed of development is blistering. Here we identify the biggest trends you need to know about. And a few are rather surprising….
1 Indoor location tracking
The latest tech uses lights in conjunction with smart phones to accurately locate people with 10cm accuracy within an indoor space. Once the building owner knows where you are, they can interact with you to deliver real time marketing messages or offer better services, or perhaps they’ll just track what you do and figure out how to use the data.
2 Camera-based lighting control
Lighting controls today typically use infrared, ultrasonic or microwave sensors to detect movement, which means they are liable to false triggering or switching prematurely when people aren’t moving. Camera technology is so cheap (you probably have two in your smart phone) that they are now being used in lighting control.
3 Self-learning control systems
The concept of a device learning its own settings has been pioneered by Google’s acclaimed Nest Labs in its thermostats. The concept lends itself perfectly to lighting controls so that sector is examining how the approach can be adopted to enable the system to self-commission and learn how a space is being used over time.
Who to watch: Helvar
4 Super capacitors
The Achilles’ heel of emergency lighting is batteries, which degrade over time. However, the improvements in efficiency of LEDs and advancing capacitor technology mean it is possible to get an hour of lighting back-up without batteries. This means that emergency lighting can have a maintenance free life of up to 10 years.
5 Integrated street lights
Street lights or rather the columns which hold them off the ground used to be a convenient place for dogs to use as toilets, now they’re being crammed full or other technology from CCTV systems, PA speakers, Wifi transmitters and electric car charging points. This reduces street clutter and could provide funding streams for public lighting.
6 Inductive power coupling
Although this technology has been around for years – it’s used to charge your electric toothbrush – manufacturers are now exploring ways in which it can used for lighting. It’s a perfect way to install an unground uplight and avoid the age old issue of water ingress, or connect a retail lighting display to power without wires.
7 DC power networks
The battle of the currents was settled in favour of AC back in the 1890s, but LEDs and a proliferation of low-power devices mean Round Two has started. Power over Ethernet (PoE) is one embodiment bundled up as part of a computer network, but we’ve also seen DC-powered track lighting, which results in smaller fixtures.
8 Lights which aren’t just lights
With sensors becoming so cheap, and lights getting connected to the Internet, light fixtures are starting to get packed out with sensors not related to lighting, such as ambient temperature and air quality. That data can be shared with other building services or harvested for other big data applications.
Everything in lighting is starting to shrink dramatically. Think chip-scale LED arrays, compact optical systems and ultra thin LED drivers (the smallest we’ve seen is just 13mm high). This should result in ultra-small downlights, in-ground uprights and super-slim linear fixtures, and lower materials costs for the manufacturer.
Wi-fi over lighting, or Li-Fi to give it the name coined by inventor Harold Haas, can transmit data 100 times faster than wifi by modulating the light, which would mean you could download the entire set of Star Wars movies in around one second. It works by pulsing the LED light at extremely high frequencies which is undetectable to the human eye.