Guiding Lights for the Great Indoors

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Holiday shopping is already beginning – that time of year when we dart frantically from aisle to aisle trying to find just the right gifts for our friends and family, and to ready our homes for the season. But imagine with me for a moment what it would be like to have your own personal guide to help you map out an efficient route through the store. No more combing aisles to find that perfect shoe-rack, or having to book it the entire length of a Super Target to get that pair of headphones you forgot.

A new startup called ByteLight is working on an innovative new idea for an indoor GPS-like system with the help of LEDs and smartphones. The idea is to have an app or program for the phone that guides shoppers to find exactly what they’re looking for within a store (and even find discounts on products).

Instead of sending a signal out to space like a normal GPS, your phone would connect wirelessly with the LED lights in the store to guide you where you want to go.

For the system to function, the LED light bulb would blast a specially designed light signal to the camera of your smartphone to determine your location. The signal would consist of blinking patterns of light, too rapid for the human eye to notice. The technology would be able to detect a person’s location within one meter, and do it in less than a second.

To get the system to actually work for you, ByteLight’s software would need to be installed on your smartphone and the LED lights would need a special chip to send the signal.

The chip within the LED would be cheap to add, and would use the shopper’s location to help them find their way to the products they want, also delivering targeted ads. Any current smartphone camera would work with the system. Read More

Pegasus Lighting Roundup: Getting Smarter

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In lighting news…

Over the past month, I’ve seen so many smart-controlled energy efficient light bulbs popping up on the market, growing what calls “The Internet of Things,” in which objects (and not just people) communicate over the web. Each light bulb has an Internet IP address that you monitor wirelessly with a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Some popular models include LIFX (featured on Light Reading earlier this month), and Philips’ Hue coming to Apple Stores tomorrow, October 30!

According to, New York City was the first U.S. jurisdiction to publicly post energy efficiency information for its building stock last month. A series of mind-numbing spreadsheets might not seem so exciting at first, but this is a key step in establishing energy transparency in the real estate market.

In lighting tips…

Speaking of energy efficiency, have you seen the new Home Advisor from It’s an online resource that gives you detailed information on just about every way you can save energy at home. All you have to do is answer a few simple questions (Where you live, how you heat/cool your home, etc.) and they’ll give you a list of everything you can do to save a little more power. Read More

25,000 LEDs For The Bay Bridge’s 75th Year

Courtesy of Leo Villareal

It’s not every artist’s dream to have a 500-foot canvas that’s also an international icon, but that’s what Leo Villareal and his lighting team couldn’t be more thrilled about. This month, crews will begin constructing a massive light-art installation on San Francisco’s famous Bay Bridge.

First conceived 2 years ago by Ben Davis of Words Pictures Ideas (a communications firm that does work for Caltrans), “The Bay Lights” will cover 1.8 miles of the bridge’s northern face with 25,000 programmable LEDs suspended on cables. The team plans to have it finished by March, when they’ll debut it with a grand lighting celebration just in time for the bridge’s 75th anniversary.

Leo Villareal, the artist in charge, plans to use intricate sequences and algorithms to display light patterns based on movements around the bridge. He’s best known for his piece “Multiverse,” made of 41,000 LEDs in the tunnel that connects the two wings in Washington’s National Gallery of Art. Villareal hopes to bring the same elegant orchestration to The Bay Lights. You can see the concept in this video:

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The Quest for Quality Light

Since the advent of the incandescent (and even before), quality of light has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Regrettably, that quality has mostly been unfortunate. When incandescent lights were the only choice, the early 20th century population complained about the glare and the possible dangers of electricity.

Case in point: on an episode of Downton Abbey (Masterpiece’s smash hit about an elite family living on an estate in the early 1900’s), the prim and hilarious Dowager Countess laments the new electric lamps:

“Such a glare! I couldn’t have electricity in the house – I wouldn’t sleep a wink. All those vapors seeping about. Feels as if  I were on stage at the Gaiety.”     

The Countess shielding herself from the electric lights. Courtesy of Downton Abbey.

Not only were people of the time dissatisfied with the brightness of the lights, they also were afraid electricity was going to leap out of the walls and plug points and infect them!

Even when fluorescent and mercury vapor lights came along in the 1930s, their blue-green hues and poor color rendering indexes made them sorry alternatives. The people were left to compare the poor quality of gas-discharge lamps vs. the poor quality of phosphor-generated lights vs. the incandescent lights they had learned to live with.

Finally, according to the LIGHTimes Online, quality of light may be gaining a positive spin thanks to LEDs. Yes, like many of the lights before them, LEDs have provided their share of poor quality with cheaply manufactured lamps that claimed way more than they actually could deliver. But now, all the major LED manufacturers have incorporated quality of light into their daily vocabulary. Read More

Top Speed Data Transmission Brought To You By Twisted Light

Courtesy of Nature Photonics

Wild lighting is no longer just for discotheques and laser tag – it has the potential to revolutionize the way we communicate.

Researchers at the University of Southern California have found that when they combine twisted beams of light, they can transmit data at a startling speed – over 85,000 times faster than standard broadband cable. To put it in perspective, at that speed you could transmit 70 full-length DVDs in a single second.

How does it work? Alan Willner, an electrical engineering professor at USC explained it in the Nature Photonics journal in June, and I’ll explain it now.

Light is just a group of photons that the researchers could direct in infinite ways at very high speeds. The study employed beam-twisting “phase holograms” to coax the beams of light into helical shapes as they spread in free space. Each beam, twisted in a unique way, was encoded with “1” or “0” data bits, making each beam an autonomous data stream – much like different radio channels. Read More