General Lighting Future Future of technology LED

Solar LED Lights Improve Quality of Life in Developing Countries

Residents of developed countries such as the United States often take lighting for granted. For individuals in economically developing countries, illumination is an expensive proposition. In underdeveloped countries the poor spend 100- to 1,000-times more per unit of light than those who are connected to the grid, and yet they only have access to 0.1% of the illumination enjoyed by the first world. The lights they use are primarily fuel-based: candles, kerosene, propane, diesel, battery-powered flashlights, traditional materials such as wood and grass, and even discarded rubber tires.

Inefficient Resources Contribute to the Cost

The preponderance of fuel-based lighting in poorer countries indicates how inefficient energy use can be in these areas. The expense of burning fuel traps people in poverty, and has a massively detrimental environmental impact, with greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to the exhaust output of 30 million cars. Fuel-powered light sources threaten health and safety, impede the livelihoods of those who use it, and saddle governments with energy subsidies that are often crippling.

A decade ago, there were very few solutions to the problem of lighting in most developing countries. Solar power was aggressively promoted as an energy efficient answer, however the cost of installing solar panels often equated to a family’s entire annual income. Wireless LED lighting has recently emerged as a possible solution to this problem. With ultra-low wattage bulbs now on the market, in addition to the decreasing price and size of solar cells, lighting systems are now available that are ready for immediate installation, with no professional assistance required.

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Wireless Lighting for Developing Nations

Today’s market features a multitude of high quality solar-LED products with varying features and light output capabilities. Prices range from about $10 to $75 and typically pay for themselves within a year, while the energy involved in manufacturing them is recouped with a few weeks.

Non-profit organizations, such as Solar Aid, have introduced solar-LED lights to many economically poor countries, with many more eagerly following suit. Consumers in underdeveloped countries have happily adjusted to the technology. Solar Aid alone has sold over 1 million lights in five African countries. The sales rate continues to grow at a rapid pace of 30% a year. Product offerings have increased as well, including phone charging capabilities and other extended functionalities. As miniaturization of LED and solar devices continues to inspire more portable technology, additional end uses including flat screen televisions, small fans, and other appliances, are now hitting the market.

Low product quality and financing problems initially hampered the success of some of the products, but quality has continued to increase, while mobile money is making a difference in how consumers in remote areas pay for these life-changing items. With more than 40 companies making portable LED products and a 30 percent growth rate, improved energy access is now available to more than 35 million people in Africa, across 25 countries.

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?