Lighting technology - opening the new frontier

By Erik Zimmerman, Littil Pty Ltd
Wednesday, 14 May, 2014

Throughout history, the advent of new technologies and discoveries has exerted a huge and ever more rapid impact on the way we live.

Look at the most recent technology wave - mobile communications. It’s only a few years since small handheld phones were considered the wonder of the age. Yet within a short period of time, mobile devices have become essential to daily life.

Equally significant has been advances in lighting due to the development of high-efficiency light emitting diodes (LEDs), lasers and new light-conducting materials, which can miniaturise the form and transmission of light.

A new world of lighting

Lighting devices are no longer used just to fill the void of darkness - new lighting technology has opened a whole new world of visual communication, contributing to safety, wellbeing, transport, entertainment, traffic control, sport and signage. The list goes on.

New lighting technology is unfolding now with an incredible array of benefits: cost reduction, vibrant colours, long-distance visibility and intensity, controllability and exciting and practical applications.

Some lighting developers have released, or are refining, LED and LED-/laser-based devices that will deliver previously impossible savings in energy costs. For example, in some European cities, power providers are able to monitor the output of lighting systems as well as adjusting lighting levels as and where needed.

Energy savings of up to 70% compared with the old technology are being achieved in these city applications.

In the Dutch city of Eindhoven, smart street lights turn themselves off when nobody is there and can provide atmosphere by changing colour according to residents’ preferences.

Smart lighting can also be remotely adjusted using wireless technology to illuminate areas as small as a street corner. An Italian restaurant, for example, will be able to adjust the street lanterns around it to create a more Italian atmosphere.

It’s all happening quickly

The pace of development in LED lighting is so fast that traditional sockets and fittings will no longer be needed. However, electricity supply is still dependent on the system to which we have been accustomed for most of our lives, so it’s a case of the new technology having to adapt to the constraints of the old. In time, systems designs and engineering will ultimately evolve to a point where you will not recognise the old wire and socket infrastructure.

The applications and the impact of new lighting technology are only limited by one’s imagination. We have seen some innovative companies that have successfully experimented with the speed and rate at which light can be used to transfer and communicate information. These experiments have demonstrated that a visible light communication system can be produced from laser pointers to transfer data even more efficiently than with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

With a new level of control over the location, programmability, type and intensity of lights will come far-reaching effects on food production. Even with today’s new lighting technology, one does not need to think too hard about the near future where it will be cost effective to undertake cropping around the clock.

Light tuning will have huge impact

We have always known that the many characteristics of lighting can influence a person’s wellbeing, productivity and general state of mind. So the new lighting technologies have the potential to recalibrate a person’s biometric status to keep them at an optimum state of concentration and focus.

Tunable lighting characteristics such as colour, hue and warmth can be adjusted to change a person’s environment and mimic different times of day to compensate for changing natural light patterns. That’s why airlines such as Virgin Atlantic are already using seductive LED mood lighting to minimise the effects of stress and jet lag on passengers.

New light distribution technologies

There has been considerable work done by examining the use of lasers to deliver lighting to enable more radical lighting configurations based on new technologies. This is where just a few point sources of laser light on a building may be transmitted throughout a site by using fibre-optic cabling that has the benefit of being directed anywhere.

A major pay-off for commercial properties

Because of the speed at which LED technology has advanced, it is no surprise that property owners have been treading cautiously in terms of retrofitting LED lighting. We are seeing more property managers taking a serious look at the return on investment of retrofitting LED systems, as the latest products have proved to deliver equal or better performance, while producing up to 80% in electricity cost savings.

As the established and reputable suppliers of LED systems prove themselves in the market, facility managers will be more prepared to embrace both the performance and cost-saving benefits that come with this new technology. And beyond the cost savings, owners will be looking at some of these innovative lighting solutions to add excitement and appeal, as well as adding value and differentiation to their properties.

As with any new technology, buyers need to be careful about the experience and credentials of their supplier, so it is good practice to check out sites where the lights are already installed. You should also review a supplier’s test and approval certificates and check that products are marked with the Australian mandatory Registered Compliance Mark (RCM).

In evaluating the potential return on investment from retrofitting LED lighting systems, check for eligibility for financial incentives offered by the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target (VEET), the NSW Energy Savings Scheme (ESS) and demand reduction incentives offered by Energex in Queensland.

Littil Pty Ltd

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