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A lot of things have been getting smart recently. Devices that used to have one simple role have blossomed into multi-purpose systems, highly integrated into centralized platforms that span the building, campus or city. For no system is this more true than lighting. The ubiquity of light throughout the built environment has positioned it perfectly to provide sensing and connectivity for occupants.

Our recent report – The Future Workplace: Smart Office Design in the IoT Era – extensively explored lighting’s role in the office environment. Where it has been proven to increase health, wellbeing and productivity of the workforce. More recently, lighting has been developing a smarter role in a variety of other buildings and facilities to great effect.

The Hospitality Sector

An increasing number of hotels and resorts are finding innovative ways to apply smart lighting and IoT technologies, for better efficiency but also to enhance the guest experience. When first settling into one of these new, smart hotel rooms, guests are able to customise a variety of elements using their smartphones. They can even create a individual profile for future trips to the same hotel or other hotels in the group.

Lighting can be set to track the rhythms of the sun to increase occupant health in line with recent scientific research on the topic. Similarly guests may choose to brighten the lights when working late, or dim and change the color of the light to create a warmer atmosphere. By connecting their smartphone to the lighting network they can also access other systems such as temperature, entertainment devices, curtains/blinds and even change the framed digital artwork in their room.

In the future we should expect the hotel room to resemble a small smart home but quicker to set up and linked into wider hotel systems. Room service, laundry, booking for spa, sports and other facilities could be tied into a centralised system customised for each guest. Smart lighting has also shown strong potential to improve accessibility and wayfinding for visually impaired guests and those with special needs.

The Healthcare Sector

A new wave of research has demonstrated the potential benefit of lighting for the recovery of patients in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Circadian lighting, that which mimics the natural rhythms of the sun, has been shown to improve restful sleep and mood, thereby aiding recovery. While neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), for example, are utilizing circadian lighting to help premature newborns better develop their diurnal cycles while in the medical setting.

However, it is not just patients that can benefit from better lighting; doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff can also improve their health and wellbeing, along with their productivity as a direct result of smart lighting systems. A study by Rana Zadeh, assistant professor of design and environmental analysis, discovered nurses who had access to natural light enjoyed significantly lower blood pressure, communicated more often with their colleagues, laughed more and served their patients in better moods than nurses who settled for large doses of artificial light.

“Improving the physiological and psychological wellbeing of healthcare staff, by designing the right workspace, can directly benefit the organization’s outcomes,” Zadeh said. “Access to natural daylight, and a nice view outside, should be provided for clinical workspace design. In situations where natural light is not possible, optimizing electric lighting in terms of spectrum, intensity and variability to support circadian rhythms and work performance,” she continued.

The Education Sector

What is more important than facilitating the best educational atmosphere for our youth? Through smart lighting we can improve focus, concentration, alertness and productivity of students and staff alike. Applying these kind of improvements on a large scale can have significant long-term benefits for society as a whole.

“Adjusting the color temperature of light to deliver cooler tones in the morning and warmer tones in the afternoon have, in some studies, helped influence the attentiveness and focus of K-12 students,” explained Jered Widmer, Principal with The Lighting Practice. “This same control of color temperature has been helpful in some special needs classrooms,” he added.

A World of Smart Light

The ubiquity of luminaires has positioned lighting at the center of the IoT. By incorporating sensors, antennas, and wireless protocols, all kinds of facilities are unearthing the broad benefits smart lighting offers. Lighting is no longer just about illumination; Lighting systems can monitor temperature, humidity, and air flow in real-time, and communicate with third-party equipment to adjust settings for optimal use and energy savings.

“The result of smart lighting is fast, networked communication between devices resulting in information that humans can use to save energy, reduce maintenance costs, improve workflow, enhance security, and eliminate wasteful and inefficient practices,” concluded Widmer. These smart systems have truly become the shining light of the cyber-physical revolution.

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