Urban Farming Goes Vertical with LEDs

Green Sense Farms vertical LED farm warehouse

Green Sense Farms vertical LED farm warehouse

We like to report on interesting applications using LEDs. This latest application we are focusing on takes LEDs and combines them with farming to leverage unique properties – temperature and wavelenghths —  of LEDs to grow more, better plants, indoors without the use of pesticides.

Chicago’s Green Sense Farms takes advantage of LEDs to make the largest indoor commercial vertical farm in the United States. According to a report in Gizmodo, Green Sense Farms recently announced two new huge climate-controlled grow rooms in its Chicago-area production warehouse. Green Sense Farms combines towering racks of vertical hydroponic systems with Philips “light recipe” LED grow lights.

Philips is building a database of ‘light recipes’ for different plant varieties since each plant has its own needs for light. A Philips Horticulture “light recipe” is an instruction based on knowledge of how to use light to grow a certain crop under certain conditions. Because LEDs produce less heat than traditional lighting, the light fixtures can be placed much closer to the crops without fear of burning them— reducing the vertical farm’s footprint and ensuring that each leaf gets the light it needs.

Using the system, Green Sense Farms is able to harvest its crops 26 times a year while using 85 percent less energy, 1/10th the amount of water, no pesticides or herbicides, and reducing the facility’s CO2 output by two tons a month. And, to make the Earth a better place, it even produces an average of 46 pounds of oxygen daily.

For Further Reading

Gizmodo, Chicago’s Huge Vertical Farm Glows Under Countless LED Suns, http://gizmodo.com/chicagos-huge-vertical-farm-farm-glows-under-countless-1575275486

Have LED Light Bulb Questions? Infographics & Such to “Enlighten”

Angie's List Infographic - LEDs

Angie’s List Infographic – LEDs

A lot of companies are participating in the new LED light bulb market, also called Solid State Lighting or SSL. These companies can be LED light bulb makers or participate by making some component of the LED light bulb ranging from heat sinks and LED chips to the sapphire growers, polishers and fabricators that make the foundation of the LED, the sapphire chip. All of them have a vested interest in helping consumers understand LED light bulbs and why they are different from CFLs and traditional incandescent light bulbs. We’ve gathered together some resources to help consumers understand their lighting options.

The US Department of Energy is leading the effort to educate consumers about their new lighting options and have enlisted companies that participate in the LED lighting market to help. The DOE has developed some very good resources on their own web site for the industry, http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/ssl/. But they’ve also developed resources for consumers to learn more about their lighting choices. Some sample resources for consumers to learn more about LED lighting include a good FAQ here, http://energy.gov/articles/askenergysaver-led-lights.

The Federal Trade Commission requires a new lighting label, Lighting Facts, on all light bulb packages to help consumers understand what they’re buying. Optical and lighting publication Novus Light Today wrote about these new labeling requirements featuring an infographic from light bulb manufacturer Cree.

Cree, Lighting Facts Infographic

Cree, Lighting Facts Infographic










Many of these companies as well as consumer groups are producing infographics to help the consumer learn more. Here’s a round-up of links to additional resources for learning more about LEDs.

Angie’s List, Infographic: What’s in a light bulb?,


The information in the Angie’s List infographic is great, except for the pricing. LED light bulbs have gone down quite a bit in price with some at retailers in the US coming in at just under $10 and a few others cost less and are even more affordable when combined with rebates and other special offers.

Philips, The LED Lighting Revolution, http://community.lighting.philips.com/servlet/JiveServlet/showImage/102-1201-34-4943/Infographic_LED+Revolution_Philips+2012.png

Light bulb vendor Philips compiled a nice all around look at the energy-saving benefits of LED light bulbs and translates them into benefits for the environment and life.

Lumican, Can LED lighting really save energy and money?, http://lumican.com/portfolio-items/can-led-lighting-really-save-energy-and-money/

Canadian lighting solutions provider Lumican highlights US Department of Energy statistics and compares energy usage and savings of LED, halogen, CFL and traditional light bulbs.

LiveScience, NRDC Guide to Light Bulbs, http://www.livescience.com/42509-goodbye-to-old-lightbulbs.html

The NRDC does a great job at comparing LED light bulbs to CFLs and traditional incandescent light bulbs and gives a good explanation at the new light bulb packaging required by the US government.

We’ve also covered LEDs vs. CFLs on the Clearlysapphire blog. You can read them, here:

Clearlysapphire.com, Incandescent Extinction – Which light bulb will win? LED vs. CFL? http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=601

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

Clearlysapphire.com, Tipping Point 2: Finally, A Sub $10 LED Light Bulb, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=371

Clearlysapphire.com, Tipping Point: Earth Day, 100W Light Bulb Reprieve and Alexander Hamilton, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=169

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

LEDs and Location – A New Way to Shop

Location, location, location. Location-based applications have matured a great deal since early navigation devices like Garmin and Magellan GPSs.  Location-based applications are very popular in smart phones. Using the location-based applications, you can tell your friends where you are and can find the nearest coffee shop.  These applications typically use a GPS chip inside the phone or even location technology called U-TDOA (uplink time difference of arrival). These are the same location technologies used for e-911.

The next generation of location based applications are moving indoors. These new apps can bring all kinds of new uses to the typical smart phone. Because these applications are used inside, they can’t rely on GPS or U-TDOA because these technologies need line-of-sight where walls and other obstructions can limit their effectiveness. These next generation indoor location apps rely on new location technologies such as Near Field Communications (NFC), a new version of Bluetooth called Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon technology, RFID and even LEDs.

ABI Research predicts that the indoor location market will reach $4 billion US in 2018. Big companies are exploring the indoor location market.  Apple and eBay have announced that they’re going to use BLE iBeacon. Apple is actively looking to establish an iBeacon program that can leverage its installed base of iPhones and iTouch devices to provide mobile transactions and offers to retailers and their customers. Retailers such as Macy’s and American Eagle Outfitters are testing iBeacon.  Major League Baseball announced a new agreement to use iBeacon for the upcoming baseball season using Qualcomm hardware.

How do LEDs fit in? Several companies are looking to leverage light.  Philips is looking at one-way communication between networked LED-based luminaires and customers’ smartphones and a new system from ByteLight that uses a LED light fixture to communicate a unique identifier to individuals with smart phones using tiny pulses of light.

Philips recently shared a demo that uses a supermarket scenario using indoor location technology to guide a customer around a store to gather items for a recipe, and allows the store to send special coupons or offers to customers based on their location in the store.  The technology would operate based on the instantaneous response of LEDs in on-off cycles that could transmit data to the camera of a smartphone using light changes undetectable to humans in the store. The customer would need to download an app on their smart phone. Like the ByteLight application, the communication link from the LED luminaires to the smartphone would deliver location data and other offers.

Here’s a diagram from Philips that illustrates how their LED location application would work in a grocery store.

Philips Connected Retail Lighting System

Philips Connected Retail Lighting System
















For Further Reading

LEDsMagazine, Philips Lighting demonstrates LED-based indoor location detection, technology, http://www.ledsmagazine.com/articles/2014/02/philips-lighting-demonstrates-led-based-indoor-location-detection-technology.html

RFID Journal, Retailers Test ByteLight’s Light-Based Indoor Positioning Technology, http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?11474

FierceMobileIT, Indoor location market to reach $4 billion in 2018, predicts ABI, http://www.fiercemobileit.com/story/indoor-location-market-reach-4-billion-2018-predicts-abi/2013-10-18#ixzz2v7TLbqKe

Happy New Year 2014 – Times Square Ball LED Trivia

2014 New Year's Ball (Source: Philips)

2014 New Year’s Ball (Source: Philips)

Each year hundreds of thousands of New Year’s revelers brave the chilly New York City weather to see the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop at midnight to usher in the New Year.  More than a billion more people worldwide watch the Ball Drop via television.  Since 2007, the Ball has featured LED lights.

The 2014 Ball, a geodesic sphere, is 12 feet in diameter, and weighs 11,875 pounds. The Times Square 2014 Ball will feature 2,688 of the Waterford Crystal triangles, each including a series of intricate wedge cuts that appear to be endless mirrored reflections of each other to bring a kaleidoscope of colorful patterns on the Ball.  The Ball is illuminated by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs (light emitting diodes). Each LED module contains 48 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs – 12 red, 12 blue, 12 green, and 12 white for a total of 8,064 of each color.

Every year, the Ball undergoes improvements to improve the celebratory lighting experience.  For the 14th consecutive year, Philips is the official lighting partner for the world-famous Times Square New Year’s Eve – produced by the Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment.  This year, the Ball was accompanied by the year 2014 with the “1” and “4” in special color-changing, programmable LED light bulbs from Philips’ line of hue bulbs.  Each programmable bulb has more than 16 million color options while the “2” and “0” will feature Philips’ outdoor rated BR30 LED bulbs.

Philips compiled trivia questions for the big celebration.  How smart are you about the Ball? Here’s the trivia quiz:

1) What year did the first New Year’s Eve festivities in Times Square take place?

A) 1885
B) 1900
C) 1904
D) 1915

The first ever celebration of New Year’s Eve in Times Square took place 109 years ago on Dec 31 1904. The party was organized to commemorate the official opening of the new headquarters of the New York Times. The area known back then as Longacre Square was renamed Times Square in honor of the famous publication.

2) When did the first Times Square Ball drop happen?

A) 1900
B) 1907
C) 1924
D) 1950

“The first Times Square Ball was lowered from the tower flagpole precisely at midnight on December 31 1907, to signal the end of 1907 and the beginning of 1908.”

3) How many people attended the first ever Times Square Ball Ceremony?

A) 50,000 people
B) 200,000 people
C) 500,000 people
D) 1 million people

Considered a big success, “the joyful sound of cheering, rattles and noisemakers from the over 200,000 attendees could be heard thirty miles north along the Hudson River.”

4) How much did the first Times Square Ball weigh?

A) 100 pounds
B) 300 pounds
C) 500 pounds
D) 700 pounds

The first Ball made of iron and wood, weighed 700 pounds.

5) How many lights were installed in the first Times Square Ball?

A) 100 lights
B) 250 lights
C) 500 lights
D) 1000 lights

If you said A you are right. In 1907 the first Time Square Ball was covered with 100 light bulbs.
“In 1920, a 400 pound iron Ball replaced the iron and wood Ball.
In 1955, a 150 pound aluminum Ball with 180 light bulbs replaced the iron Ball.
In 1995, the aluminum Ball was upgraded with aluminum skin, rhinestones, and computer controls.
In 1999, the crystal New Year’s Eve Ball was created and lit by Philips to welcome the new millennium.”

6) What year did LED technology replace the light bulbs in the Times Square Ball?

A) 2007
B) 2009
C) 2011
D) 2012

“To mark the 100th Anniversary of the New Year’s Eve Ball in 2007, modern LED technology replaced the light bulbs of the past. In 2008, the permanent Big Ball was unveiled atop One Times Square where it sparkles above Times Square throughout the year.”

7) How much will the 2014 TS Ball weigh?

A) 99 pounds
B) Over 5,000 pounds
C) Over 11,000 pounds
D) Almost 17,000 pounds

“The Ball is a geodesic sphere, 12 feet in diameter, and weighs 11,875 pounds. For Times Square 2014, all 2,688 of the Waterford Crystal triangles introduce the new design Gift of Imagination – featuring a series of intricate wedge cuts that appear to be endless mirrored reflections of each other inspiring our imagination with a kaleidoscope of colorful patterns on the Ball.”

8 ) How many LED modules are attached to the aluminum frame of the Ball?

A) 333 LED modules
B) 528 LED modules
C) 672 LED modules
D) 980 LED modules

The 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles are bolted to 672 LED modules which are attached to the aluminum frame of the Ball.

9) How many LEDs are required to illuminate this year’s Times Square Ball?

A) Over 11,000 LEDs
B) Over 24,000 LEDs
C) Over 32,000 LEDs
D) Over 53,000 LEDs

“The Ball is illuminated by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs (light emitting diodes). Each LED module contains 48 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs – 12 red, 12 blue, 12 green, and 12 white for a total of 8,064 of each color.”

10) The Ball can create how many vibrant colors?

A) 2 million
B) 7 million
C) 10 million
D) 16 million

“In order to produce a spectacular kaleidoscope effect atop One Times Square, the Ball is capable of creating a palette of more than 16 million vibrant colors and billions of patterns.”

For Further Reading

Times Square Alliance, http://www.timessquarenyc.org/events/new-years-eve/nye-faq/index.aspx#.Ur2eM_SIwxE

Philips, Philips hue to Mark Colorful Start to 2014 at Times Square, http://www.newscenter.philips.com/us_en/standard/news/press/2013/20131217-Hue-New-Years-Eve.wpd#.Ur2gFfSIwxG

The LED Revolution in 2013 – Advances in LED Light

NY Times Square New Year’s Ball 2013, http://timessquareball.net/new-years-eve-ball-history/

The BBC recently put together a video about the LED Lighting Revolution that was jam packed with lots of information about the latest advances in LED lighting for 2013.  It also brings great video of LED upgrades to the Times Square New Year’s Ball in New York and the new LED lighting at New York’s Empire State Building that you might not have seen yet.

The New Year’s Celebration at New York’s Times Square is known worldwide for the crystal ball that has been dropped at midnight since 1907.  The ball, made by Philips and Waterford, got a makeover in 2007 when they changed the light source from incandescent bulbs to LEDs. But each year the LED-based ball gets a little bit better. The BBC video details how Philips and Waterford joined together to ensure that the legendary sparkle of the ball wasn’t lost with LED’s directional light.  The ball designers used special reflectors and baffles (seen in the video) to make sure the light refracts correctly with the crystal.

The 2013 Ball features 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles bolted to 672 LED modules attached to an aluminum frame.  The Ball is illuminated by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs. Each LED module contains 48 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs – 12 red, 12 blue, 12 green and 12 white to a total of 8,064 of each color. The Ball is capable of creating a palette of more than 16 million colors.

Not only does the ball look better, but the new ball brought energy savings 90% with double brightness by going LED in 2007. One year later, improvements saved 30 percent more energy.  The improvements have been so great that they keep the ball lit all year, every day.

The LED retrofit of the Empire State Building (ESB) was completed earlier this year, but the people at the BBC show the retrofit developed by Philips Color Kinetics in detail.  The new programmable LED light system brings 16 million colors. The old lighting system for the ESB meant 9-10 men manually changing large colored gel disks in a process that took all day. Now, the managers can update the new color palette – which can be daily — at a touch of a button.

Recently, we detailed the new 3-Way SWITCH LED Light Bulb at CES. The BBC video details how some SWITCH bulbs are made with a new liquid cooling system.  While most LED bulbs are air cooled, the people at SWITCH have developed a special liquid cooled LED bulb.  SWITCH’s advanced LQD Cooling System™ divides the bulb into two parts where half the bulb is a glass globe filled with silicon-based liquid to act as a cooling element.  The LQD Cooling System also includes a patented driver that is both reliable and highly efficient. SWITCH claims that their bulbs offer up to 40% better thermal performance than air-cooled LED bulbs.

The BBC video ends with a look at how 2013 will be different for personal, customizable LED lighting that can be controlled by a tablet or smart phone. Using an onscreen color palate or personal photo on a tablet, users can change the light from the LED lamp.

For Further Viewing

BBC, The LED Lighting Revolution, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/9782116.stm


Study Finds LED Street Lights Generate 85% Energy Savings

Energy savings is one of the major arguments in favor of using LEDs for lighting applications including street lights. The people connected with LightSavers conducted a study based on a rather impressive two-and-a-half-year global pilot of LED street lamps in 15 separate trials across 12 cities around the globe including New York, London, Kolkata, India and Sydney, Australia. The study concluded that LED street lighting can generate energy savings as high as 85%. That’s a fairly impressive number.

The LightSaver trial concluded that LEDs are now mature enough for scale-up in most outdoor applications as well as bring the economical and social benefits to the masses. The report explored the global market status and potential for LED technology and provides guidelines for policymakers and city light managers who want to scale-up and finance large LED retrofits.

Some specific study findings directly relating to lighting include:

• Surveys in Kolkata, London, Sydney and Toronto indicated that citizens prefer LED lighting, with 68% to 90% of respondents endorsing city-wide rollout of the technology.

• LED lighting was found to be a durable technology with the need for minimal repairs; the failure rate of LED products over 6,000 hours is around 1%, compared, for example, to around 10% for conventional lighting over a similar time period.

You can see a video about the Kolkata trial  here:

The findings of LightSavers are presented for the first time in the new report, Lighting the Clean Revolution: The Rise of LED Street Lighting and What it Means for Cities: www.TheCleanRevolution.org. The results of the study were distributed via press release from Royal Philips Electronics. The report was produced by The Climate Group in partnership with Philips in support of the campaign’s argument that major energy savings can be achieved virtually overnight at relatively little cost.

Additional Facts:

• Lighting is responsible for 19% of global electricity use and around 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions1.

• Doubling lighting efficiency globally would have a climate impact equivalent to eliminating half the emissions of all electricity and heat production in the EU2.

• In the United States alone, cutting the energy used by lighting by 40% would save US$53 billion in annual energy costs, and reduce energy demand equivalent to 198 mid-size power stations3.


1 IEA (2006) Light’s Labour’s Lost, OECD/IEA

2 ‘Homes’ includes CO2 emissions from residential use of gas and electricity. Figures from: IEA, 2011, CO2 emissions from fuel combustion: Highlights.

3 Power stations at 2 TWh of generation each year. Data from Philips Market Intelligence and IEA: Philips (2011) ‘The LED lighting revolution: A summary of the global energy savings potential’, based on IEA analysis.