The “smartness era” of light bulbs

Emitting light is a trivial capability of the modern-day bulb.

Thanks to new technologies and market changes, light bulbs are evolving to include new features, such the ability to act as musical speakers, smoke detectors and even indoor GPSs!

Initially forecasting that two million connected bulbs would be sold in 2015, IHS lighting industry analyst Will Rhodes says that number could grow as consumers are picking them up even faster than originally thought.

It’s evident that in combination with Internet of Things (IoT) architectures, LEDs are leading light bulbs into a “smartness era”.

Unlike compact fluorescent bulbs, LEDs are based on semiconductors and typically already have a collection of chips and other electronics inside of them. This makes it relatively easy to add in other chips and electronic modules like radios and speakers.

But what is it exactly that makes a bulb “smart”?

Gartner defines smart lighting as a lighting system that is connected to a network and can be both monitored and controlled from a centralized system or through the cloud.

French supermarket chain, Carrefour, for example, utilizes a smart LED lighting system capable of sending special offers and location data directly to shoppers’ smartphones. Codes are transmitted to phone cameras via visual light communications (VLC) that is undetectable to the human eye, enabling shoppers to quickly receive information on promotions going on around them.

VLC can be used as a standalone solution or supplementary to radio-frequency. However, it cannot penetrate obstructions such as walls.

Smartphone

The benefits of smart lighting expand far beyond high-tech convenience, however. According to Gartner, smart lighting installations in office buildings and industrial areas have the potential to reduce energy costs by 90 percent, while LED installations alone result in energy savings of approximately 50 percent.

At this point in time, the installation of true smart lighting systems is driven primarily by government regulations around energy savings and bulb recycling laws. However, the costs of smart bulbs are likely to come down in the near future and standardized ways of connecting them will likely be developed.

Although it’s likely the current light bulbs in your house cannot do much more than turn on and off, one day we may wonder how we ever got by without smart bulbs!

Sapphire Industry Watch – July 17

  • Photos: Clean energy innovations are lighting up Africa – Quartz: In 2013, President Barack Obama launched Power Africa, an initiative to bring 30,000 megawatts of clean electricity to sub-Saharan Africa, where 600 million people live without power. Supported by the US Agency for International Development, 4,100 megawatts of power have been delivered so far, a portion of which has come in the form of solar LED lamps.
  • University of Buffalo invention takes new approach to fighting insomnia – ABC 8 News: A University of Buffalo professor is spearheading research that aims to cure insomnia – something that more than 60 million Americans suffer from. Her invention called “Re-timers”, are LED light goggles that can reset the brain’s natural sleep cycle. Using green LED lighting, the goggles shut off Melatonin in the early morning in order to advance sleep rhythms come evening.
  • How smart lighting has the potential to reduce energy costs by 90% – First Post: Internet of Things (IoT) architectures are rapidly driving smart lighting technology, so much so, that the worldwide commercial space for smart lighting is expected to double in 2015. According to Gartner, smart lighting installations in office buildings and industrial areas have the potential to reduce energy costs by 90 percent, while LED installations alone result in energy savings of approximately 50 percent.
  • LED grow light market worth $1.9B by 2020 – Compound Semiconductor: A new MarketsandMarkets report forecasts that the LED grow light market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 26 percent over the next five years. As awareness of LED grow lights’ benefits increases, the market will experience a high growth phase in applications such as vertical farming, commercial greenhouse and indoor farming.

Earth Day 2014 – Companies Get Greener

Walmart goes for LEDs

Walmart goes for LEDs

In honor of Earth Day 2014, we’ll take a look at how some companies are leveraging LEDs to save energy, bring new aesthetics to their businesses and even save that other valuable resource, money.

Starbucks is committed to using LED lighting in their coffee houses globally. By 2010, Starbucks was able to complete installation in more than 7,000 company-owned stores in the United States, Canada, the UK, China and Singapore. According to Starbucks, This effort has helped reduce the company’s electricity consumption by 3.3 percent since 2008 along with other measures. In FY2011, the company said that electricity use had decreased by more than 7.5 percent since 2008 with a goal of 25 percent by 2015.

Most recently worldwide discount chain Walmart, along with their lighting vendor GE, announced that Walmart will convert to energy-efficient LED ceiling lighting fixtures for new supercenters in the United States, stores in Asia and Latin America, and Asda locations in the United Kingdom. The new fixtures will use 40 percent less energy than lighting sources historically used in stores, and will help the retailer achieve a 20 percent reduction in the kilowatt hour (kWh) per square foot of energy required to power Walmart’s buildings globally by 2020.

Philips worked with Harrods to convert their Wedgewood display to LED lighting in their famous department store in Knightsbridge, London. LEDs replaced halogen lamps in the chandeliers bringing the sparkle back to the Wedgwood area. The LED lighting provides a 74% reduction in installed electrical load, considerably lower heat gains and reduced maintenance requirements. “The chandeliers now look brilliant and the floor staff is very happy with the new candle lamps. We will be specifying them for all of the chandeliers throughout the store in the future,” said Mark Fleming, Harrods Engineering Technical Manager, in a Philips case study about the project.

The New England Aquarium (NEAQ) in Boston recently installed over 160 LED fixtures from Lumenpulse, a leading manufacturer of high-performance, architectural LED lighting solutions.  The project, by Lighting design firm Available Light, enhanced the overall visitor experience, improved animal care with a more naturalistic lighting approach, and even helped biologists curb the growth of algae in the NEAQ’s Giant Ocean Tank (GOT) through LED lighting.

Part of a six-year renovation of the NEAQ, the goal of the lighting project was to bring a sense of theatricality to the aquarium, highlighting the animals and coral reef with new dynamic lighting based on a unique WGB color mixing system that uses white, blue and green LEDs to show off the water while inhibiting algae growth.

“We learned that higher color temperatures are less conducive to algae growth,” said Matt Zelkowitz, Assoc. IALD, LC Principal at Available Light, in a press release. “Red light did not really penetrate or affect the water, while blue and green were magical in manipulating tonality.”

For Further Reading

LEDs Magazine, Starbucks converts US stores to LED lighting, http://www.ledsmagazine.com/articles/2009/11/starbucks-converts-us-stores-to-led-lighting.html

Walmart, Walmart and GE Transforming Retail Lighting with Energy-Efficient LEDs Globally, http://news.walmart.com/news-archive/2014/04/09/walmart-and-ge-transforming-retail-lighting-with-energy-efficient-leds-globally

Philips, Harrods, UK, http://www.lighting.philips.com/main/projects/harrods.wpd

LEDs Magazine, New England Aquarium recaptures spotlight with Lumenpulse LED lighting fixtures, http://www.ledsmagazine.com/content/leds/en/ugc/2013/10/new-england-aquarium-recaptures-spotlight-with-lumenpulse-led-lighting-fixtures.html

LEDs, Sleep and SAD –Innovations in Light

Philips Wake Up Light

Philips Wake Up Light

In the past, most people just bought light bulbs without a thought. It was simply about light. There weren’t many extra considerations. Today’s lighting purchase might be made with intelligent applications and even therapeutic reasons in mind, such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Light can help prevent or lessen the symptoms of SAD. According to WebMD, as many as 3% of Americans can suffer from SAD in the winter. When people are exposed to less natural light they may develop depression and anxiety, oversleep, and even have difficulty concentrating. Some people who live in extreme areas that depend on artificial light during long winter months without sunlight can use artificial light derived from LED light bulbs for some SAD relief.

Until now, most SAD sufferers needed special light boxes for SAD-related light therapy. LEDs are a natural light therapy source. Light from almost all LEDs used for lighting, displays and even TVs tend to naturally skew towards the blue part of the spectrum. Blue light stimulates a photoreceptor in the eye that reduces the production of the hormone melatonin and helps people stay awake.

LED lighting companies have begun to leverage blue light for those with seasonal disorders and even sleep issues.

Philips tackled the issue of the lack of light during polar winter in a town in the Arctic, Longyearbyen, Svalbard, where they experience dark for four months straight. Longyearbyen is the northernmost town in the world with 2,000 inhabitants (outnumbered by 3,000 polar bears). For two months, 186 volunteers used the Philips Wake-up Light for a study.  Already proven to work in a number of independent clinical studies, the Philips Wake-up Light was used to help wake up the volunteers with gradually increasing LED light prior to the alarm.

After using the Philips Wake-up Light for six weeks during the polar winter, 87% of residents said that they wake up feeling more refreshed, alert and ready for the day. Philips reported that 98% of residents said they would continue to use the Philips Wake-up Light rather than their previous method of waking up.  You can see a video about the experiment here.

Philips also has designed Philips goLITE BLU to help stave off the winter blues. The goLITEBLU provides the right level of blue light to help regulate a body’s clock and improve mood and energy levels. It is more efficient than traditional white light boxes, producing more concentrated light in a considerably smaller form factor.

For those challenged to wake up without hitting the snooze button repeatedly, there’s the Philips HF3500/60 Wake-Up Light that leverages both music and light to wake you up.  Here’s a link to an entertaining review written by a snooze button addict from Gizmodo.

Lighting Science’s Awake and Alert LED lamp brings more blue light to help people stay awake, while the company’s Good Night light reduces the blue light to help people sleep. The company also has designed the Rhythm Downlight with an app that can keep a sleep schedule for shift workers, those in extra long nights in cold climates and even those in space. The app syncs up with a specially designed digital LED light bulb. When it’s time to begin waking, the bulb will emit more blue light to help you wake up. But when it’s time go to sleep, the percentage of blue light is reduced, turning on your melatonin so you can sleep.

For Further Reading

Discover Magazine, Smart Bulb Helps You Sleep and Wake on Schedule, http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2014/04/04/smart-bulb-helps-you-sleep-and-wake-on-schedule/#.U0K5m_l90xF

The New York Times, LEDs Change Thinking about the Light Bulb, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/06/technology/personaltech/leds-change-thinking-about-the-light-bulb.html?_r=0

Philips, Philips Wake Up the Town, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wotUrbYs0QI

Philips, Wake up the Town: Arctic Experiment Results, http://www.digitalnewsroom.philips.com/pressreleases/Wakeup_light_campaign/Philips_Wake_up_the_town_Final_results_report.pdf

Gizmodo, A Light-Up Alarm Completely Changed My Life, http://gizmodo.com/a-light-up-alarm-completely-changed-my-life-1535668863

The Business Standard, Lights are no longer just for lighting, http://www.business-standard.com/article/beyond-business/lights-are-no-longer-just-for-lighting-114031401155_1.html

Incandescent Extinction – Which light bulb will win? LED vs. CFL?

The second phase of the US light bulb phase-out hit a major milestone on Jan. 1, 2014, the deadline to end production of 40- and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs. The deadline passed by with not much notice from consumers.  But, the end of incandescent light bulbs sets up a new battle: LED light bulbs vs. CFLs.

Consumer Sentiments

A recent consumer survey by Osram Sylvania, a light bulb manufacturer, measured public attitudes about energy-efficient lighting and awareness in the US.  Here are some of the results:

  • 4 in 10 consumers are aware of the January 2014 phase out of 60W and 40W bulbs
  • More than half (59%) of consumers are excited about the phase out, as it will help Americans use more energy efficient light bulbs.
  • 46 percent of consumers plan to switch to CFLs,
  • 24 percent will opt for LEDs, and
  • 13 percent say that they will choose halogens.
  • This year, 30 percent of consumers say that they plan to buy a lot of traditional light bulbs where still available and will continue using them.
  • This is a sharp increase from the 2012 Socket Survey which showed just 16 percent said that they plan to stockpile bulbs.

Light Bulb Wars

Consumers still have time to make up their minds about their next light bulb because retailers still have supplies of 40- and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs on the shelves.  Retailers like Home Depot and Lowes have enough stock on the incandescent bulbs for consumers through the spring at least.  However, once the supplies dwindle, what should you buy? LED or CFL?  Let’s compare.

CFLs

A descendant of traditional fluorescent lights, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) contain argon and mercury vapor housed within that spiral-shaped tube. The bulbs rely on an integrated ballast to produce an electric current that passes through the mixture of gasses, exciting the gas molecules that produce the light.  The time for the ballast to produce the electrical current causes that typical CFL delay when it is turned on.  CFLs use 20-30% less energy than the typical incandescent and last about 9.1 years.  Of course, they do contain mercury, so cleaning up after breaking them and disposing of CFLs after they burn out becomes problematic.  Here’s a link to how to dispose of CFLs safely for you and the environment.

LED light bulbs

Unlike traditional incandescent bulbs, LED light bulbs generate light using a small “package” of several LEDs in a light bulb.  LED light bulbs are more efficient since they use a semiconductor to emit light or photons when electricity is passed through it.  LED light bulbs give off more than 80% of the energy used as light. The good news is that LED light bulbs can cut household energy use by as much as 80% and have a lifetime of as much as 22.8 years, about 2.5 times longer than CFLs.

So what do you choose?

Here’s a quick look at some of the LED and CFL light bulbs available on Homedepot.com (pricing as of 1/8/2014).  While Cree and Philips LED bulbs are a bit more expensive for a single bulb, they do produce a soft white light comparable to CFLS and traditional incandescent, but they last much longer.  If you are looking to save energy, you’ll want to know how efficient they are.  You’ll see this in the chart in the column lumens per watt.  This is a measure of how well the light source produces light.  The higher the number, the better your light bulb is at producing light.  Visit your local retailer to see how they look in person, since tastes vary.  For an explanation of the Color Rendition Index, read this previous post.

A Comparison Guide to LED and CFL Light Bulbs

A Comparison Guide to LED and CFL Light Bulbs

For Further Reading

Fox Business, Retailers Brace for Change Ahead of Incandescent Bulb Ban, http://www.foxbusiness.com/industries/2013/12/31/retailers-brace-for-change-ahead-incandescent-bulb-ban/

Osram, Sylvania Socket Survey, http://www.sylvania.com/en-us/tools-and-resources/surveys/Pages/socket-survey.aspx

NBC News, Majority of Americans still in the dark about incandescent light bulb phase-out, http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/majority-americans-still-dark-about-incandescent-light-bulb-phase-out-2D11805991

NBC News, With incandescents dead, smart bulbs step into the light, http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/incandescents-dead-smart-bulbs-step-light-2D11869426

Buildings, Incandescent Bulb Phase-Out Myths Debunked, http://www.buildings.com/news/industry-news/articleid/16806/title/incandescent-bulb-phase-out-myths-debunked.aspx

Newsday, Light bulb shopping choices under new ban, http://www.newsday.com/business/lightbulb-shopping-choices-under-new-ban-1.6706464

Clearlysapphire.com, Confused about Your Home Lighting? – LED, CFL and Incandescent Compared, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=492

Street Lights of the Future that Can Fight Crime

Chattanooga’s Coolidge Park (credit: John Bamber)

Street lights in Chattanooga, Tennessee are very smart and they can fight crime too.  A Chattanooga company, Global Green Lighting, has developed the smart street light of the future.  As described in a profile in The Atlantic Cities magazine, the city of Chattanooga was having gang problems in Coolidge Park, one of their city parks. The situation got so bad in 2011 that the city was facing a decision to close the park at dusk or light the park with gigantic flood lights for safety.  Along came Global Green Lighting to save the day!

Global Green Lighting installed a new smart LED lighting system in Coolidge Park.  Not only does the new LED lighting system provide better, less expensive lighting for the park, but the new wirelessly enabled LED lighting system offers the city the ability to work smarter.  Each light can be controlled specifically to turn on at dusk and turn off at dawn. Each light also can turn into a crime fighting tool like a search light or brighten to illuminate a crime scene or trail a suspect as he or she sprints down a road.  While park goers can’t activate the changes in the LED lighting, the lights can be controlled right from a police cruiser on site.

The LED lighting system also brings other advantages for the city.  They can flash warning signals in emergencies like weather alerts. Further, they’ll be wired into the city’s power system and broadband network so the city can plug in devices like air quality sensors, video cameras, or WiFi routers.

After a successful test of 350 lights last year, Chattanooga worked with Global Green Lighting to replace the city’s 26,500 streetlamps at a cost of $18.1 million.  The city estimates that the new lights will save $2.7 million each year when the project is completed in late 2013 and the system will pay for itself within seven years. Further, the system is so smart that it will alert the city when one of the LED lights is having a maintenance issue, letting them know which one needs service.

For Further Reading

Global Green Lighting, www.globalgreenlighting.com

The Atlantic Cities, The Streetlight of the Future Will Do So Much More Than Light Your Street, http://www.theatlanticcities.com/technology/2013/03/streetlight-future-will-do-so-much-more-light-your-street/4958/

BusinessWeek, Chattanooga’s Radio-Operated Streetlamps, http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-05-10/chattanoogas-radio-operated-streetlamps