The Sci-Fi Future of Lighting Design Has Arrived. Time to Engage!

April 20, 2016
Enlighted Inc.

Science fiction is usually grounded in nascent research or technologies that haven’t yet hit the mainstream. In “Minority Report” we watched Tom Cruise swipe glass screens to navigate a data-driven user interface. It seemed so cool it couldn’t be real, or at least not anytime soon. A mere five years later, the first generation iPhone was released, which offered a palm-sized version of the sci-fi screen, with even more functionality, and futuristic features called “apps.”

Sci-fi films have often depicted buildings that think, learn, and act. Artificial Intelligence in buildings was a fantasy, like Star Trek. No longer. In the world of lighting, this kind of so-called artificial intelligence isn’t some far off phenomena. Smart, connected, futuristic lighting design is happening right now.

Not too long ago, members of the lighting industry were skeptical of LEDs, believing that Solid State Lighting couldn’t possibly deliver the kind of quality lighting we created with our beloved incandescent. (Come on, admit it… if you were there, you grumbled too.) Can anyone say with a straight face that LEDs haven’t been able to deliver beyond our wildest imagination?

So here we are again. At the precipice of another transformation, but this time it’s even bigger, broader, and deeper. Lighting is becoming the technological nexus for smart, connected buildings. Lights are everywhere that people are, and so light fixtures have become the network of nodes that facilitate the collection and delivery of big data from buildings. And data is what it’s all about, right? Or, no?

There is an ever-growing movement of people within the lighting industry who are stepping up to make sure that we keep lighting design at the forefront of the human experience of place – especially as the inevitability of data-driven connectivity within buildings moves forward. Digitalization of lighting technologies should be in the service of brilliance, beauty, inspiration, health and value in many forms. Connected lighting can deliver a quality of life that hasn’t existed before… a “quality of light” that actually improves the way we live, and how we feel.

Success in the LED revolution thus far is largely thanks to the leaders who set the bar high with respect to quality, transparency, standards, awareness and education. As we move forward with new sensing and data technologies, let’s do that again. The Lumina Project’s expert Luminaries know this future is possible, and believe that we all deserve the right to quality light.

The digital lighting revolution is happening, folks. Is the lighting profession going to be reactive, or will we write our own path forward? How can each of us help to manifest a future we believe in?

  • Practice and Promote Integrated Design. More than ever before, design teams need to consider how lighting will impact non-lighting requirements from the beginning. Data-driven lighting considerations are tightly woven together with other building design features. Integrated design is no longer just about HVAC, daylighting and shading, it should also include emotional atmosphere, color tuning, circadian support, space utilization, safety, security, location services, and more.
  • Be Willing to Learn. How about some good old fashioned humility? What lighting expert really knows about system architecture, data protocols, APIs, headroom, agile, sprints, UI’s, algorithms, distributed intelligence? If we are going to be leaders in a brave new multi-disciplinary world, we need to embrace and collaborate with the Information Technology and Software domains, in the same way we wish them to embrace us. It’s our opportunity and responsibility to evolve our skills and leverage a powerful new toolset, collaborating closely with IT as a knowledge and design domain.
  • Be Willing to Teach. “They don’t get it.” Of course not! Let’s enthusiastically commit to education and awareness of the inherent value of lighting and lighting design. Let’s stop preaching to the choir, and extend our message into the board rooms, committees, and conferences of lighting and buildings decision-makers.
  • Demand Future Proof. People are nervous for good reason. Is it risky? Will it last? On behalf of our customers, we need to work persistently towards interoperability, firmware and software upgradability, open application interfaces, warranties, and standardization.

The opportunity is clear. Get on board with the FUTURE of LIGHT, NOW… by learning more, connecting with a Luminary, and helping to spread the word far and wide.

The Lumina Project aims to facilitate discussion, debate and insights that will help advance the lighting industry’s role in transforming our buildings and cities into intelligent, high-performing, and healthy ecosystems. The Project’s Luminaries of forward-thinking designers, engineers, technology providers, and building operators have developed a joint perspective on the future of light and are all co-contributors of this article.


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