What Is Smart Lighting?

Smart LED Lighting
via blog.nxp.com

LED technology has been gaining a lot of steam over the past few years. In accordance, we have seen the prices of LED light fixtures and LED light bulbs decrease. Thrilling new projects involving OLEDs have tickled our fancies, and colossal displays of LED lighting – turning bridges into dragons, creating towers of kaleidoscopic light – have entertained us. But the most exciting developments in LED lighting fall within the realm of smart lighting.

In a recent blog post for the Lighting Control Association, Craig DiLouie described the emergence of smart lights as an “LED revolution.” He decribes a few emergent technologies under the smart lighting umbrella. One is smart lighting control. With smart lighting controls, “luminaires themselves can become addressable nodes in a network.” You can communicate with the fixtures themselves. This allows for a number of cool things to take place.

Cool Aspects of Smart Lighting

1. The first cool aspect of smart lighting is that it optimizes LED lights for energy efficiency, which is a huge motivator for LED development.  You get easy, customized control, which is ever more important, as commercial building codes are becoming stricter regarding energy consumption. Dimmability is huge when it comes to cutting energy.

2.  The second cool thing about smart lights is that they offer two-way communication between the LED lights and the software controlling them. The ability to communicate means that sensors installed in the lights can tell the software how the light is performing, and it enables a process called “white light color tuning,” which, Dilouie states, could become a hot technology because of the many health applications of LED lights.

3. The third aspect of smart LED lighting that’s really cool is the ability for smart lights to interact with lighting solutions that use LED luminaires to facilitate connectivity between multiple building systems. Many current applications of this technology use sophisticated luminaires full of daylight or motion sensors and which report their performance data to a computer. This allows users to save a lot of electricity.

DiLouie calls smart lighting a “Trojan Horse,” which means that it will change the landscape of society in ways we don’t quite realize yet. Here’s what the future could look like: Luminaires become data gathering nodes, monitoring occupancy (with video), temperature, pollution, and innumerable other things. It gets crazier. LED lighting can also be used to communicate with consumers. That’s right. LED lights flickering so quickly that the human eye can’t detect it, but a smartphone could. In fact, the technology already exists to the extent that flickering lights can transmit enough data to steam video. See my previous blog post on the subject for more on that.

DiLouie envisions “LED lighting as infrastructure, a platform.” He writes that “We’re in the most exciting period in the history of the lighting industry, and the revolution is just getting started.”

What do you think? Are we on the cusp of an LED-ruled world?

Tom Sowders

After majoring in creative writing at NC State, I worked in the home remodeling industry. Then, I attended graduate school for a really long time and gained experience as a writer and writing instructor. I live in the Raleigh-Durham area with my wife and baby boy, and you can find me around the Triangle anywhere there's good music and/or NC-style BBQ.