General Lighting Fixtures Future Future of technology Internet of Things IoT Technology wireless technology

Lighting Networks Could Make For a Wonderful Tomorrow

We are barreling head first into the next generation of the internet. After ecommerce, social media and the cloud, connecting everything is the obvious next step. The trend has been called the “Internet of Things”, or IoT. The connected devices can be as simple as sensors and security cameras or as complicated as vehicles and production machinery. Bosch Software Innovations expects before 2022 there will be 14 billion connected devices.

The Internet of Things

IoT refers to the network of objects embedded with electronics, software, sensors and the capability to connect which are able to exchange data. Generally, the capability is used to communicate with manufacturers, operators, or other devices. For instance, Ford, is working to create cars which are able to “sense” one another and their outside environments, thereby preventing collisions due to operator error.

The term “the Internet of Things” was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton. It is expected that, as wireless technology  continues to advance, the interconnection of embedded devices will allow for automation in nearly all fields. In fact, the automation industry already depends heavily on IoT technology. New applications for IoT innovations are being developed every day, and it appears that lighting may play an important part thanks to VLC.

Visual Light Communication, or VLC, can best be explained with a metaphor: imagine using a flashlight to send a message using morse code. Turning the flashlight off and on at specific intervals expresses the message. VLC works much the same way, except that the light transmits the message via flickers which occur so quickly, our eyes can not perceive them.

Given that our cities, homes, cars and cell phones are brimming with usable light, it makes sense that researchers would seek a way to combine efficient lighting technologies with the communication requirements of an IoT world. Streetlights can be fitted with sensors which are able to monitor urban environments. With their height and numbers, streetlights could be highly effective at detecting air particulates and providing important ecological data about the quality of a city’s air.

Have you ever had trouble finding a parking space in the city? Streetlights could help with that problem, too. Siemens has developed a system whereby sensors would detect cars, motorbikes or even motorcycles that are parked illegally and send an automatic signal to the authorities. Now, pair that same technology with a smartphone app and you have a system that can tell you where the open parking spots are and if they are even big enough for your car.

In Newark Airport, a wireless network of lights has already been implemented which is able to monitor the movement of people and vehicles. This enables the airport to observe traffic and travel patterns, predict outages or delays with higher accuracy, and send marketing promotions. Mostly, the system is used for security and maintenance purposes. Apparently it’s still not good enough to replace the lengthy pat-downs at security, though.

IoT and VLC have more attractive, less Big Brother type applications as well. The Philips Hue LED bulb is capable of communicating with your television set. Once synced to your TV, the bulbs will flash, pulse, dim or change color in accordance with what is happening onscreen. Imagine watching that action film on a big screen, with surround sound, and bright flashes of light every time something explodes on screen. Who needs movie tickets when you have an immersive theater at home?

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Scientists make Big Developments with Tiny Graphene Bulb

A tiny new lamp made of graphene has proven to be not only the world’s thinnest light bulb, but also the worlds smallest too. In fact, the tiny graphene lamp—one atomic layer thick—is so small that it can be integrated with a computer chip. This new graphene lamp was developed by James Hone’s group of researchers at Columbia University, and led by a postdoctoral research scientist, Young Duck Kim.

“We’ve created what is essentially the world’s thinnest light bulb,…This new type of ‘broadband’ light emitter can be integrated into chips and will pave the way towards the realization of atomically thin, flexible, and transparent displays, and graphene-based on-chip optical communications.”

—Hone, James, Wang Fon-Jen Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Columbia University

An Amazing New Source of Illumination

Graphene is a form of Carbon. Some of its properties are: it is thin, it has poor heat conduction, and it is crystalline. When combined, these properties contributed to the successful design of the new graphene lamp that could be a game changer. Not only has this team of scientists finally created a lamp that can be integrated safely with computer chips, but in fact they have created something that has innumerable applications for the field of technology and innovative home and business lighting too.

White Light, Little Heat

The graphene that researchers used reached 2,500 degrees Celsius, which is hot enough to cause the strips to glow brightly enough to illuminate the surrounding area of the chip. This type of heat would generally hold the potential to damage surrounding computer chips in the same way as a filament bulb does, but it does not. Why? Because once it is hot, Graphene is a poor conductor of heat so the heat it produces stays within the filament and the surrounding computer chips remain intact and undamaged.

The Future of Light Lies in Integration

It seems that the future of the graphene lamp lies in its integration in the home and in other fields. Integrating the graphene bulb in the home and buildings would mean an actual physical integration of the lighting sources  into the walls and ceilings of a home or office, rather than being separate fixtures. In terms of technological applications, graphene light will enable computer chips to process information more quickly and with less energy consumption. One of the more exciting and futuristic prospects for graphene light is that it could be used to create “flexible and transparent smartphones and tablets” so those computers, phones, and other tech toys you so covet in your favorite sci-fi romp could be in a store near you faster than the speed of light.

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EPA Publishes Final Energy Star Specifications

Just a month after its final draft, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published its Version 2.0 of the Energy Star Luminaires that raises the energy performance level of lighting products. Public comments regarding any changes raised only a small number of new issues that have been addressed with the agency’s most recent comments. The guidelines in Version 2.0 (V2.0) of the document will become operational on June 1, 2016. Lighting products previously carrying the Energy Star V1.0 and V1.2 certifications are allowed to carry those labels until that date.

Manufacturers of lighting products can begin moving forward to comply with the new specifications of compliance immediately. Certification bodies are permitted to begin testing of luminaires for V2.0 conformity directly after a manufacturer’s request. Certification bodies will no longer validate products to the V1.2 standards as of December 1, 2015. The EPA cited the longer production and testing times due to the complexity of LED products as the reason behind the one-year time period designated for products to become compliant with the V2.0 specifications.

One change in the V1.2 specifications permits GU24 lighting products to operate in Energy Star products that are specifically designed to use GU24 products. The screw-based designs must clearly indicate the manufacturers and lamps that they are compatible with as the information is needed for replacement bulbs. Another change is that the retrofit kits do not have to meet the requirements for driver/ballast replacement because their lights can already be removed.

The EPA clarified that the new specifications do not include information on the replacement of fluorescent light  LED tubes and that the rest of changes in this draft were to update references and fix grammatical errors.

The V2.0 specifications are expected to result in noticeable reductions of energy use via higher efficacy standards. They’re also intended to motivate users to purchase more solid state lighting products like LED lighting for reasons of cost and efficiency. In some cases, efficacy standards have been lowered, the rationale being that lowered efficacy standards boosts broader adoption and use of LED lighting.