Smart Lighting Can Brighten Up the Future of Work
In about 4 or 5 billion years, the sun will explode and there will be no more light for the solar system because it’ll very likely be wiped out. Until then, we humans should make the most of the sun’s rays (and all lighting, really) when designing and implementing effective smart lighting programs.
Before diving into smart lighting’s benefits and how best to implement it, it’s key to suss out a working definition of the phrase to build understanding for the concept’s potential. Smart lighting is an implementation of technology and programming that provides lighting with optimized energy consumption and function suited to the space’s qualities.
The Sun Is Your Friend
Smart lighting can not only lighten the load of energy bills, but can guide the direction and success of companies.
When smart buildings and offices are designed, both in their construction and their layout, they should be arranged to maximize sunlight intake during normal business hours. Increasing interior sunlight exposure will reduce the need for artificial lighting and can potentially lower heating costs during colder weather and seasons.
Smart lighting systems are best built on machine learning, in which sensors feed an algorithm with data and that algorithm adjusts the intensity of artificial lighting throughout the office and building, accounting for all kinds of factors like longer days in the summer and lower sunlight exposure on rainy days.
Wherever the sun shines into the office, lighting dims. As the sun moves through the sky or a mass of clouds moves and blocks its rays, the lighting would brighten to stave off the darkness.
Pretty simple stuff, but it can prove incredibly valuable when considering that sunlight markedly improves worker focus and cognition, which translates into greater profitability for tenant companies.
More Than a Lite-Brite
Many people don’t realize it yet, but the color of lighting affects people’s mental states and output. Study after study show that tweaking the warmth and intensity of office lighting can do wonders in improving productivity, well-being, and morale in the office.
Blue light has been linked to increased alertness and cognition, which means less sleepy and more productive employees. Red light has been shown to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and promote relaxation. German researchers recently found that dim lighting can boost creativity and innovation.
And no one honestly loves the steady drone of omnipresent fluorescent tube lights. Given the productivity and morale benefits that better lighting can offer, fluorescent lights present a massive and awful opportunity cost.
When designing a smart lighting program, it’s key to build it with an inherent flexibility at its core. This allows for realignments between occupants across both the short and long term, but more importantly it allows for experimentation and learning. If algorithmically driven, the machine guiding the lighting can make recommendations for a new configuration and even make some changes itself.
The MBA program from the University of North Carolina has an interesting recommendation for overall lighting:
This arrangement could suit many businesses fine, but there are many possibilities to weigh. Brainstorming rooms could also experiment with dimmer lighting, client meeting rooms could employ warmer lighting to test for improved satisfaction and conversions, overall lighting could shift to warmer lighting after-hours to reduce stress workers feel when staying late, the potential for experimentation and learning are nigh endless.
Savings & Signals
Office space is one of the most expensive line items on businesses’ accounts, but smart lighting can help mitigate these costs and turn it around into less of a cost center.
Gartner estimates that smart lighting can reduce energy costs by up to 90%, a real coup for tamping down those power bills. These savings would come from a direct decrease in lighting usage and, after widespread adoption, a decline in the aggregate demand that’ll reduce energy prices across the market.
Ideally, smart lighting adoption will have a network effect among companies, such that no one wants be the barbarian with lighting schemes from the twentieth century.
Additional savings would spring forth from the drop in consumption of lightbulbs and the work effort required to replace them, both in the replacing and any interruption of normal work involved. Fewer bulbs to purchase and replace and no one needs to move over for the ladder.
Another perk to smart lighting is signalling. Smartly lit offices have the opportunity to message the entire office through lights, which would be especially useful in the case of emergencies. In the future, governments should create open data systems for communicating emergencies to populations so entities of all sorts can connect for update, including smart offices.
Imagine a less obnoxious, yet still incredibly attention-grabbing medium for fire alarms, especially when they’re being tested or upgraded. No more annoying, nigh deafening sirens. sirens.
Illumination By Internet
A final component of smart lighting worth discussing here is the potential for internet connectivity via light. That’s right – light bulbs can distribute broadband now.
It’s called LiFi and it has the ability to radically transform office spaces, homes, transport, and much more. The term was coined in 2011 by Dr. Harold Haas, who’s spearheading the development of the technology at his company, PureLiFi.
LiFi offers a natural replacement for WiFi routers and bridges with much better coverage. There would no longer be a problem of measuring the thickness of walls or floors. Wherever someone is using a light connected to the network, there’s easy and fast internet access.
Measuring the volume of traffic running through different lights (albeit anonymized) can help inform any occupancy analytics programs running in the office. If LiFi bulbs can report on download and upload traffic reliably, that can supply data on how the office is used, which would help improve the smart lighting programs – an upward spiral, it seems.
More and more office should be adopting some form of smart lighting. It makes fiscal sense, can help reduce building emissions, bolster companies’ success, and usher in a new era of office life.