Editorials

LED Lighting will Change Everything

Every technological revolution encompasses two distinct phases, and LED lighting
is no exception. In the first phase, inventors work to adapt a new technology
as some form of direct replacement for the incumbents while the second phase involves new applications that likely have never existed. LED lighting has started with standard street lights, ceiling troffers and replacement lamps (PARs and A-lamps), which is comparable to the first horseless carriages in the automobile evolution, or for the PC, networked systems in the accounting
and materials departments. In that second phase, though, entirely new applications emerge, both for
the technology itself, as well as in those areas it “suddenly” enables.
When cars and trucks became capable of reliable travel at speeds above 50 MPH,
highways came into being and the car was now a long distance travel tool. Some
related ‘apps’ that followed were in-dash car radios (and the resulting music
industry explosion), motels and fast-food. In the case of the ‘networked PC
and optical communications revolution’, once we had arrived at high-speed networking
and the thing called ‘the internet’, the E-commerce (and search engine) bonanza
began, along with the whole mobile device and ‘apps’ revolution. In much the
same way, LED lighting will revolutionize more in our lives than most people
can imagine (and it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that this will be a big
focus at the SSL
Summit
, April 3-4 in Long Beach).

One key area will be related to better lighting for our interior and exterior
environments.
The word “better”, in this case, is intended to
be broadly encompassing, including such things current talking points as better
color rendering, better quality, better efficiency. Perhaps more important,
though, what I’ll call the “future betters”, which would be such things
as better for you (healthier), better utilized, more responsive to each of us
as individuals, better for our overall productivity. LEDs, by their nature,
are “designed” to produce light narrow wavelength ranges. Blue, red
or green are produced at specific sets of blue, red or green wavelengths, depending
upon the material properties of the semiconductors doing the work. What that
implies is the we can “tune” the mix of wavelengths involved in doing
whatever jobs is asked of them. In some cases, such as theatrical or movie stage
lighting, it may be to enhance different tones to create a better balance or
specific emotional effect. In other cases, we want to use those narrow LEDs
wavelengths to “pump” the light out of a phosphor blend, which gives
off a fairly broad spectrum of light. Whether tuned at the manufacturing or
system level, the end result is that we’re able to pretty much specify what
mix of wavelengths we want to produce, which also means choosing wavelengths
we want to experiment with.

The folks at RPI’s Lighting Research Center (LRC) have done some interesting
work recently in determining what appears as “white light” to people,
and not unsurprisingly, they’ve discovered that it doesn’t appear to precisely
match the white-light curve that we’ve defined relative to incandescent light
sources. RPI has also done work in uncovering how light affects our bodies,
most notably in conjunction with melatonin, which affects circadian rhythm,
seasonal affective disorders and jet lag. They’re able to conduct this testing,
large part, because LEDs have provided a tool to allow them to deliver specific
frequencies and blends of light. I just recently heard about a new Alzheimer’s
care facility that is being built from the ground up specifically as an Alzheimer’s
facility. Attention will be paid to creating an environment that contributes
to the patient’s well being, including anything that is known to arrest the
progress of that terrible disease. You know lighting is going to be a big part
of the puzzle, and as we learn more and more about it, why shouldn’t we expect
that the correct ambient and “treatment” lighting will be able to
add years to the “lucid time” that those afflicted have available
to them. This just scratches the surface of what we’re about to learn about
light, and how to harness it to improve people’s quality of life.

Luxeon High Power

The second key area will be in “smarter” lighting. Again,
it’s an encompassing term that not only describes the amount of on-board intelligence,
but speaks into how the photons are applied, and how they interact with the
occupants of the space. In simplest terms, light will go from passive to “active”.
One big way will be to adjust the amount of lighting required based upon the
combination of daylight, occupancy, productivity and availability. Sometimes
that will be a balancing act, such as in the midst of a California heat wave
when availability is poor, demand is high and brownouts are imminent. While
we might like that outside wall conference room a little brighter, our actual
productivity won’t be affected in the meeting if the lights are low or even
off. A meeting only illuminated by what’s coming in the window is a lot more
tolerable than having to recover work lost on our desktop PCs when the grid
came crashing down… we’d ‘get it’ and wouldn’t even grumble.

A big part of that will smarts will be enabled by a whole new generation of
sensors. Companies like Redwood Systems
are fully focused on a sensor in every luminaire (fixture) to provide motion/occupancy
as well as ambient light feedback. All that ties into the software (and more
software, and more software) that assimilates the data and manages it according
to the users’ and facility operators’ desires. Those lighting management systems
will have all the hooks in them to tie into other aspects of the environment,
including HVAC and security, so ultimately, the building will be one tightly
managed system. And since the one “have to” that will operate with
the finest granularity is lighting, it can be expected that those sensors in
every luminaire will serve as the backbone for virtually all the sensing that
needs to take place. In a recent visit to Redwood, as they provided a few live
examples of the monitoring and response, it was easy to visualize that the response
to a late-night intrusion alarm being the arriving police officers finding their
path from the front door to the hiding “perp” being carefully illuminated,
with the bad-guys’ position being lit in a bright red (or black and white stripes,
if you prefer). That’s a lot better than walking into a dark building, trying
to guess where the bad-guy may be, while hoping you can illuminate him (or her)
with your Maglite before they manage to target you… Down come the insurance
rates and we’re all economically happier as well!

The goals for the LED lighting industry should be pretty straight forward.
To help everyone the world over to live happier, healthier and more productive
lives. That will combine the elements of optimizing energy use, lowering the
cost per lumen, and increasing the usefulness of the lumens that are delivered,
both relative to how they are delivered now, and towards the idea of nearly-perfect
light every where we need it, and not where we don’t. As folks like Derry Berrigan,
Jeff Miller and Chip Israel have worked to teach us, working with something
as elemental as light really is important to us all.

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