Lighting’s Future in a Nutshell

The recent Strategies in Light Conference covered the latest regulations, industry confusion in measurements and standards, security challenges with wireless systems, and the non-lighting benefits of today’s technology, among other topics. By Linda Longo

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or the average lighting showroom owner, salesperson, designer, and rep, the over-riding message conveyed through the multitude of workshops and plenary sessions offered at the Strategies in Light Conference is that “lighting” as we know it today, will continue its rapid trajectory into applications that – in some cases – have nothing to do with illumination, but everything to do with improving the lives of everyone on the planet.

Why is lighting so instrumental in the growth of technology? For starters, electricity is a handy power source that is already installed and working reliably in developed countries all over the world.   

Those who think the industry has reached the maximum in energy-savings regarding LED illumination will be interested to learn there is still room for improvement. According to John Edmond, co-founder of Cree, there is work being done in LED quality as well as chip and package design to reduce instances of current and temperature droop, improve phosphors, increase thermal management, and have more effective current spreading.

Another change affects the Color Rendering Index (CRI). Not that long ago, lighting products providing 80 and 85 CRI were considered to be at a high level of light quality, but California’s semi-recent mandate of 90 CRI pretty much guarantees that lighting products currently offering anything less than 90 will drop in popularity for the rest of the country.

Lighting Applications You Might Not Know About

Tasked with forecasting what new uses might be possible over the next 20 years (2040), presenter John Edmond, co-founder of Cree, predicted:

The Indoor Farming Revolution. Every month it seems there is a major food product recall affecting people’s health, typically E.coli from tainted soil leading to severe illness and possible death among the immune-suppressed. Similarly, there are produce shortages every year due to drought or flooding in regions where crops are grown in fields, leading to a spike in prices. Switching to an indoor method of farming (i.e. protected greenhouses) and harnessing the properties of LED wavelengths to spur growth and even refine taste (bitter and sweet) eliminates the need for pesticides and keeps water sources free from contaminants.   

LED Chips as Pixels in Cinema-Scale Displays. Edmond remarked, “To say these are sharp, bright, and vivid is an understatement. In some footage from Carnival in Brazil, it’s possible to count the individual sequins on the floats and see the individual hairs on the legs of the dancers.” He mused whether this will replace the traditional method of projecting movies in cinemas and whether these attributes of sharpness and vividness would surpass LED and OLED in consumer preference in TVs.

Skyline as Display. We’ve seen LEDs used in architectural lighting for bridges, monuments, and buildings for more than a decade, but an increasing number of international cities (particularly in Asia) are transforming their skylines through nightly LED light shows featuring fluid, color-changing movement. In these cases, each individual skyscraper’s shape plays an intrinsic part of the overall design.   

Intelligent HD LED Smart/Adaptive Headlights. The automotive industry is already offering accident-preventing braking technology, lane drifting alerts, and other “smart” safety features, but LED lighting technology will be further refined to create headlights that perform “road marking,” detect objects in the road (and brighten the lights), and prevent any glare from affecting oncoming drivers.

Signaling. “One of the biggest complaints patients have in healthcare facilities is disruptive noise coming from activity by the nurses’ station,” Edmond remarked. A request from a patient to lower the noise level can be conveyed by flicking on a light.  Or flashing lights can be used to indicate where the crash carts are to speed medical personnel’s response time.

“In retail, lighting can indicate when someone has entered a store [as opposed to the common buzzer/bell tone],” he added.

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“Lighting is way beyond the visual experience. It’s going to be a ‘communication’ tool and we have to get ahead of this.”

—Nancy Clanton,
CEO of Clanton & Associates


Read Specs Carefully

What Alex Baker, MSc, LC, MIES and Manager of Government Affairs & Public Policy for the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), jokingly referred to as the “Hall of Shame” is the discouraging amount of conflicting data he has collected from manufacturers who have presented misleading specs in their catalogs, press releases, and cut sheets as well as numerous TM-21 violations. [TM-21 is a document published by the IES that details the IES-recommended method for projecting lumen degradation of an LED package, array, or module based on data collected according to LM-80.]

Some of the problems stem from applicants incorrectly filling out the testing forms – providing “projected” instead of “tested” data – while other mistakes are more overt, such as stating “one million hours” for a lamp’s lifetime. “That’s over 100 years,” Baker noted. He pointed to another manufacturer’s literature that promised 200,000 hours of lamp life (i.e. 22 years).

Realizing that product specialists may not be supplying the verbiage for a manufacturer’s catalog, Baker added, “If your marketing department doesn’t understand TM-21, then your collateral materials won’t make much sense.”

The problem is more than just misinformation. When compared to these false claims, manufacturers who provide correct data – that has been officially approved – lose out on consumer and specifier sales because their products do not appear to be as high quality or long-lasting as the unsubstantiated specs from cheaper competitors. “This is what chip array and lighting manufacturers are up against,” Baker stated.

There have also been many cases of IES and ANSI trademark violations, where product that has not been tested is marked as certified/approved. While the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was successful in stopping some fraudulent claims – for example, in a settlement with Oreck, the vacuum manufacturer had to cease making unproven claims that two of its appliances could reduce the risk of illness by eliminating germs and allergens plus had to pay a fine of $750,000 to the FTC – there is no guarantee that lighting violators will have the same outcome.

LED & Improving Visibility

In her presentation on the “Greening of the World,” engineer Nancy Clanton, a member of the WellBuilding “Light” Advisory Group and CEO of Clanton & Associates (which does a significant amount of work in illuminating national parks) expressed concern over light pollution with these increasingly popular illuminated cityscapes. “I’m a Dark Sky geek,” she confessed. “I can’t help but think about the effect [these light shows] will have on birds and bats.”

Clanton recently performed research on roadway illumination, where – similar to a “visual field test” at an optometrist’s office – participants pressed a button every time they saw an object in the road. The test was conducted using LED lighting and then with HPS (High Pressure Sodium), which makes up the majority of highway and interstate illumination. “Even when we dimmed the LED, there was no significant difference in the subjects’ performance,” she said. Test subjects had more difficulty discerning objects in the road when the HPS was dimmed. “We learned that light level isn’t as important; it is all chroma context.”

She also relayed the results of testing done at a 911 Call Center, where workers performed their jobs under different color temperatures. “Those subjected to higher color temperature had the most trouble sleeping [after their shift],” Clanton stated. The experiment also found that women preferred a lower color temperature than their male co-workers.

What’s Ahead

With continual research on lighting’s effects plus developments in technology, the next 10 to 20 years is certain to be game-changing for the industry. “Lighting is way beyond the visual experience,” Clanton stated. “It’s going to be a ‘communication’ tool and we have to get ahead of this.”

For the future, Clanton suggested moving away from the downlight shape. “The best light is the light I don’t see, but it still fills the space,” she remarked. “Let’s move away from the downlight shape. We need low glare, dynamic distribution, and [consider] getting rid of the legacy look,” she said, adding, “I think there is an opportunity for laser diodes in the future, and I would love to go to the nanometer range.”

Clanton supports ongoing research into lighting’s role in melatonin suppression and working in tandem with circadian rhythms. The effects of color temperature on tasks and environments continues to be explored, although she pointed out that lighting consistency among manufacturers remains a huge concern for lighting designers. “We need to hone in more on color,” she stated. 

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