A revolution in lighting control systems

The Energy Solutions team at ERM Business Energy are always on the lookout for the latest advances in energy efficient technology to help our customers improve their energy productivity.

POSTED 24/01/2018

Our lighting experts recently returned from the annual Hong Kong International Lighting Fair, where they found an industry being transformed by rapid technological advances.

Michael Roxborough, Lighting Solutions Manager, says the event, which featured over 2,500 exhibitors from 38 countries, grows each year and hosts some of the latest and best technologies in the LED space. While LED technology is now relatively mature, it is in lighting control systems that major advancements are being made.

“We are on the cusp of a lighting control revolution. People are just starting to understand what controls can do and what information they can collect’’ says Roxborough.

Roxborough says there is a real appetite in the global market for luminaires with controls that enhance productivity and interact with surrounding environments, with three key trends of innovation apparent.

1. Human-centric controls

The buzzword in lighting control systems at the moment is ‘circadian rhythm’, says Roxborough. This technology involves lighting and control systems that mimic our internal body clocks, which has been shown to deliver significant returns through improved concentration in working environments and productivity.

“We are currently looking at how we integrate this technology into our lighting projects. The controls work via a built-in sensor, with a timer and a light harvester that reads and evaluates  external environments, mapping the sun’s activity and adjusting the fitting’s colour temperature accordingly. It can also control the brightness, up or down, depending on how much natural light is present in the same environment. All these features adopt and mimic our internal circadian rhythms.

“The fitting changes its colour temperature depending on time of day. For example, in the morning, the light would be a warmer orange colour, around 2700 Kelvin and as the sun rises the light changes to imitate the colour of the sun. At the peak of the day the sun emits a colour range of 4000-5000 Kelvin, and then back to 2700 Kelvin in the afternoon.’’

Studies have shown this has a positive effect for people by helping to regulate factors such as hormone and body temperature levels, behaviours, concentration and sleep patterns.

2. Imitating sunlight

LED panels that look like an indoor skylight have been around for a few years. They provide natural light electronically powered through a combination of LED chips with mixed coloured temperatures. Optical lenses in the fitting scatter the light in the same way that sunlight is dispersed by the atmosphere.

But at a cost of around $10,000 per unit, Roxborough says this technology has not been viable for the general public until now.

“Manufacturers are now producing this technology at a fraction of the cost it was three years ago.’’

Roxborough says as with human-centric circadian control systems, savings are not just delivered in terms of energy consumption, but through productivity and health/wellbeing benefits.

“It has so many applications, including commercial or residential buildings deprived of natural light. It doesn’t generate UV-B to provide vitamin D, but there are psychological health benefits from the imitated natural light, and we see massive opportunities in Australia including health and aged care.’’[1]

3. Internet of Things ecosystem controls

The ecosystem of controls and lighting is a new generation of wireless control systems that manage lighting, capture data and interact with our work environment.  It is based on multiple sensors and advanced data analytics platforms.

The control systems monitor the environment, human activity, performance and the life expectancy of the LED chips whilst capturing four key data dimensions simultaneously: people, product, space and time.

Information on factors like ambient light, temperature, motion detection—including volume, direction of motion, and how many people are using a space—is captured and sent back to an analytics engine in the cloud, allowing total building/space activity to be assessed in real time.

“These smart control systems can manage much more than just lighting,’’ says Roxborough. “For example, they could help optimise Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning management, or integrate with facial recognition software for security applications.

‘’Another application is the office environment where this data can be used over time to optimise space utilisation. In other situations, it can result in higher commercial yields such as a shopping centre better understanding how people move  through the building with direction, time spent and quantity of people.  This intelligence could be used to increase rental yields of key spaces.’’

For more information, click here or contact the Energy Solutions Team on 13 23 76.

[1] The effect of cycled lighting in the intensive care unit on sleep, activity and physiological parameters: A pilot study Intensive and Critical Care Nursing, Volume 41, 2017, pp. 26-32

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