In the late 19th century electric lighting changed the fabric of society by unlocking the potential of the night. It allowed us to work and play long past sunset, but with that came other problems. Now, in the early 21st century, we have the technology to solve those problems and unlock the human and efficiency benefits of lighting controls. Potentially changing our society once again, if only we can provide it to everyone.
Nearly 20% of all the electricity consumed in the world is used for lighting. Of that, about 80% is attributed to professional applications such as building, office, industry or street lighting, and a further 20% to private residential lighting. You’d think addressing that would be top of the list for those seeking efficiency but, in the vast majority of cases, lighting is fixed to it’s glaring maximum output all the time.
“Individually adjustable lighting applications are rather the exception than the rule. No matter the time of day or season, whether inside or outside, at home, school, the factory or at the office: there usually is only one continuous brightness level or lighting color to be set,” explains major German semiconductor manufacturer Infineon Technologies, alongside the launch of ‘OpenLicht’ an open source platform for intelligent lighting.
Infineon and its three research partners, Bernitz Electronics GmbH, the Deggendorf Institute of Technology, and the Technische Universität Dresden, want to do something about this lighting problem. With the OpenLicht project they aim to make the creative use of light a possibility for everyone and, in doing so, bring about efficiencies that can make a real impact on global electricity consumption.
By developing an open source platform the consortium enables the development of lighting controls for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the lighting industry, but also design studios, interior designers, artists, and electronics hobbyists, or “makers”. The result, they hope, would be a world full of innovative, flexible, and individually adjustable light solutions for a broad range of locations and applications.
“The transition to LEDs for lighting has come at the same time as the development of the Internet of Things,” points out the most recent lighting report from Memoori Smart Buildings: The Lighting Controls Business. With that transition to LEDs comes the ability to control light like never before; for efficiency, for productivity, and for comfort.
The three-year, OpenLicht, research project is dedicated to creating an open development platform for smart lights and lighting systems that can be used intuitively. This will include “the self-learning networking of light sources with sensor data in the network and with the profiles of individual users.” In a smart home, for example, the platform could allow users to individually adjust the light settings, (be that brightness, warmth or color) for every light source and for every room in the house. Users could also easily create systems that would adapt to the time of day or other sensory information.
“Due to self-learning components, brightness and light color will automatically adapt to current temperature and weather data and the personal preferences. The open source platform will help develop creative light solutions faster and at less cost than today, even for small-scale production and single installations,” the project partners promised during the launch.
The four companies are dedicated to making complex, electronically-controlled lighting systems accessible to as many people as possible. To that end, their research will focus on developing an open source platform consisting of hardware and software on the one hand, and creating a smart, intuitive, self-learning light control system on the other. Furthermore, OpenLicht seeks to create a simple networking technology for sensors and actuators using man-machine interfaces for a smart building infrastructure.
The €4.5 million project, which will run till August 2019, has defined three particular application scenarios that cover the target spectrum: “professional lighting” - for the industrial users target group, “mood lighting” - for the home, and “light modeling” - for designers, architects, artists, and makers. The conclusion of the project will be to present one comprehensive demonstration for each of these scenarios to provide guidance and inspiration for all.
63% of the funding will come from the Optical Technologies – Made in Germany program of the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Part of its ‘Open Photonics’ development program that encourages open innovation approaches for improving the use of photonic components and systems, and open source approaches for promoting broader use. They also include approaches that will enable the public to be more directly involved in scientific projects.
It’s a different approach but one that could bring out wide-reaching and long lasting change in the lighting space. Enabling a large and global collective group of light users to take efficiency into their own hands rather than wait for technology to emerge and filter through the population. Beyond efficiency it hopes to bring the health, wellbeing, and productivity power of adjustable lighting to the masses.
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