The term “HumanCentric” has become a catchy phrase lately,
but not many outside of the Light & Health field know exactly what it is and how it is different from the lighting we use every day. By David Shiller

The lighting trade press is full of stories about “Circadian Lighting,” the modulation of color temperature and light intensity throughout the day to reset our body’s inner clock for better sleep and overall health.  The larger field of Light & Health, however, is rapidly expanding beyond Circadian Lighting, and is much less publicized.  Medical research is now finding that light has enormous therapeutic potential for a long list of ailments, including: migraines, chronic depression, constipation, and acne.

Neutrogena_Skin scanner and Skin360 app

Several of the lighting showrooms contacted for this story do not currently carry any Light & Health products per se, but in the past some have offered light boxes or bulbs that help those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Searches on most lighting showroom websites show zero relevant products for the terms “Circadian Lighting,” “HumanCentric Lighting,” or “HCL.”  Is this an opportunity that lighting showrooms are missing? Let’s look more closely at Circadian Lighting, followed by the myriad of new non-circadian Light & Health research.

Circadian Lighting

Also referred to as “HumanCentric Lighting,” or “HCL” for short, Circadian Lighting is the largest and most active area within Light & Health today.  In fact, Circadian Lighting and the Internet of Things (IoT) are the two largest developments to significantly impact the lighting industry since the mass market adoption of solid-state lighting.

The global market for Circadian Lighting was estimated at $446 million in 2017, and is anticipated to reach $3.91 billion by 2024, which means it is estimated to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35 percent during that period.

Much of the Circadian Lighting sales today are commercial lighting products targeting the healthcare market, but it is safe to assume the topic will reach the residential sector over time.

What Is It?

Circadian Lighting began when researchers found light receptors at the bottom of the human eye that weren’t rods nor cones. They had no function in human vision. These “non-visual photoreceptors” are now called the “intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells” or ipRGCs.  They send signals to our hormone (or endocrine) system that impacts melatonin production, sleep cycles, alertness, worker productivity, and our overall health.

Rebekah Mullaney is Manager/Research Communications for the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., a leading research institution in Circadian Lighting.  She shared some recommendations for people considering Circadian Lighting:

“Exposure to a regular 24-hour, light-dark pattern is essential for circadian entrainment. To enhance sleep, performance, and well-being, one should:

■ Receive high levels of illumination during the day (at least 200-300 lux at the cornea from a white light source), particularly during the morning after awakening

■ Sit by a window to receive daylight for at least 30 minutes in the morning

■ Minimize bright light (> 20-30 lux at the eye) during the evening (at least 2 hours prior to desired bedtime) and at night

■ Turn off or dim laptops or tablets in the evening.”

Mullaney adds, “Lighting Research Center (LRC) scientists found that office workers receiving high circadian stimulus (CS) during the entire workday (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) experienced better sleep and felt less depressed compared to those receiving low CS. They also reported feeling significantly more energetic and alert. The benefits are not limited to offices but are also applicable to schools, hospitals, and long-term care facilities.”

Lighting Industry Solutions

The industry is responding with a large variety of lamps and luminaires promising better sleep, alertness at work, and well-being.  Some consumer examples of color-tuning products include Signify’s Philips SceneSwitch LED light bulbs as well as the Philips Hue White Ambiance range, which includes bulbs, fixtures, and portable lamps.

According to Jeroen Schuitemaker, U.S. Consumer Sales Leader at Signify (formerly known as Philips), “Philips Hue’s tunable white light technology is available in the lighting showroom channel through our Friends of Hue partners.  These include Access Lighting, Craftmade, ELK Lighting, and ET2.”  These manufacturers offer some of their decorative luminaires and ceiling fans with Philips Hue lamps included.

David Rauschuber, Senior VP at Craftmade confirms, “Craftmade showed 24 new SKUs, ready-to-ship at the January Dallas Market, with the HUE Connect in them. We also had 12 pendants that featured the different bulb types from Hue included with the fixtures.”

Signify’s Schuitemaker adds, “Lighting has a profound effect on how we feel and how we function. It affects how productive we are, how comfortable we feel, and how well we sleep. With smart lighting, you can make simple adjustments to your lighting’s color temperature and brightness level to improve your day-to-day routines and well-being all with a tap in an app. You can also add (third-party, Hue-compatible) apps and integrate your lighting seamlessly with other smart home products to further enrich your life at home.”

Non-Circadian Light & Health

Many in the lighting industry are not aware of the many non-circadian areas where Light & Health are headed. Research has already demonstrated light therapy success in treating:

■ Migraines (with low-intensity, 430nm, green light therapy)

■ Chronic depression

■ Chronic ulcers

■ Hair loss

■ Constipation (with blue light therapy)

■ Acne

■ Pain relief

■ High blood pressure (with full-body
blue light therapy that also increased heart rate)

■ PTSD

■ Sensory-processing disorders

These are just the early days for non-circadian Light & Health, with more activity in research than product commercialization. A well-attended session at the 2018 Strategies in Light Conference examined the enormous market potential for light therapy to address migraines and chronic depression.  Both of these conditions can be completely debilitating for those affected. For children, there are often no approved drug treatments available either. Even better, there were no reported negative side-effects from studies successfully employing these light therapies. Phototherapy holds tremendous hope for millions of people suffering from migraines and chronic depression.    

A few non-circadian phototherapy products are beginning to hit the consumer market. For example, skincare giant Neutrogena® (part of Johnson & Johnson) recently launched a light pen and light mask for treating acne. Both products emit blue light that kills bacteria within blemishes, as well as red light that reduces the inflammation.

Neutrogena Skin scanner

A Neutrogena representative also shared the recent launch of “NEUTROGENA® Skin360™, which brings dermatologist-grade technology straight to your iPhone with personalized skin care product recommendations.” This system consists of an iPhone attachment containing 8 high-powered LEDs, a 30X lens, and sensors. The Skin360 app gives scan analysis of skin moisture, pores, and fine lines, and then recommends appropriate skincare products.

Opportunity for Lighting Showrooms?

Should lighting showrooms consider carrying Light & Health products?  It isn’t the business model of the past, however, if promoted well, it could provide a new reason for existing and new customers to visit your store. Circadian lamps/bulbs can be an impulse purchase or add-on sale that doesn’t require the additional expense of hiring an electrician as it would with hardwired fixtures.

These are the types of product that appeal to Millennial consumers always seeking to adopt the latest technology.  It can also appeal to aging consumers wanting new solutions to their existing health concerns.  Many manufacturers in the lighting industry (including the largest) have already made the decision that there’s significant money to be made in Circadian Lighting.  At the very least, keep an eye on this fast-growing market. 

David Shiller is a Technical Contributor to enLIGHTenment Magazine and President of Lighting Solution Development, a leading consulting firm to lighting manufacturers.  David has two decades of technical marketingDavid Shiller and business development experience in the advanced lighting industry.
david@bravobusinessmedia.com