Lights as we know them are changing radically and probably quite fast.
In many technological upgrades, the upgrade is introduced first, but is slowly implemented as it is expensive. But as more competitors get into the business, both raw materials and the manufacturing process drop in cost, so that the upgrade becomes more affordable and with its advantages, takes over the market. This is exactly what we are seeing with LED lights. Initially, many people and companies while recognizing the steep drop in electricity usage, put off purchasing them because the upfront price was so expensive, even with government and utility rebates. But now raw material costs and global competition have forced prices downward, shortening the payback. So much so that many government and utility LED incentive programs are being slashed or even eliminated. Why provide a rebate when the technology is affordable? The payback is shortening so much and LEDs are so useful and reliable that it is a real “no-brainer”.
Similarly, occupancy sensors and other controls will be fairly standard, too. They have become more reliable since the days when sitting still in a room would lead to lights turning off. And, now due to “Alexa”, the whole concept of lighting control has changed.
Which leads me to my main point. Not only is lighting control changing, but the concept of lights is changing. For a century, lights were these bulbs that emit lumens of light after an external signal (electricity) turns on and off the mechanism of burning (in tungsten in an incandescent). A physical effect causing the ability of the bare bulb to produce light. But now, lights are no longer items that just produce light. Lights in a ceiling or outdoors are now becoming little computers that can both do many things and be controlled easily through the internet. Besides being turned on and off, they can be dimmed or made into strobes or other waves, or emit different color light over time, such as dimming or making a warmer tone close to bedtime. The miniaturization that allows a whole host of functions on an easy-to-hold cell phone can allow a simple “light bulb” in a high hat in a ceiling to perform many functions – even outside of lighting, such as being a sensor with a loud alarm or projecting onto a screen.
These functions can be controlled (turned on and off or made more or less intense and timed) using a cell phone or another computer hooked up to the Internet. You have probably already seen how Amazon’s “Alexa” can turn on and off lights (and other appliances and devices) with simple verbal instructions. There may be a day very soon where light switches on the wall are obsolete and no longer designed in buildings, as all lights will be controlled by a human voice. Apple’s “Siri” and Google’s “Home” are moving in this direction, as well.
The major LED light manufacturers (Philips, Cree, Lutron) already sell “smart” bulbs that can be wirelessly controlled though your home’s Wi-Fi. You are probably familiar with those circular timers that are plugged into an outlet and the lamp plug goes into it. When the time is a certain time, the raised portion turns on or off the electricity turning on or off the lamp. This same effect can now be done wirelessly. You can program into your PC or cell phone the times to turn on and off lights (for example, on at sunset, off at bedtime). You can program them to turn on or off groups or individual lights in a room or change their brightness to create the atmosphere you want (for doing desk work, for cooking, for eating, for watching TV) when you want.
The voice-activated systems, like “Alexa”, allow quick changes from programmed timers. Alexa does not have to be in the room with the lights whose timing needs to be changed. Certainly an advantage of any of the voice-activated system is to turn on lights in the dark when one is concerned about falling or tripping. Alexa, of course, operates through Google’s “Echo” voice system, a physically standing system in one or several rooms. Apple does not operate such a system for Siri. One would need to speak into a cell phone to give Siri directions which it could use to control lights. Cell phones are often forgotten or misplaced. A standard Echo system always in a particular room may – for some – be more reliable.
Smart lights can also be used for commercial purposes. Imagine a retail store changing the lighting patterns to emphasize certain products on shelves or mannequins based on the outdoor light and customers present and other factors. Imagine a manufacturing facility adjusting lights to the needs at a particular phase of the manufacturing process.
And – here’s a scary thought after we have spent so much time educating the public on LEDs – may they soon be obsolete? Growing research shows that lasers can be used in many lighting applications successfully and using less energy. Stay tuned.
CCES has the experts to help you evaluate, design, and install the most efficient, sturdy, and flexible lights for your building and usage, while maximizing the financial benefits. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.