Light that can listen,
learn, and see?

Light has remained essentially
the same f?r a century, ?ne might say. S? what changed? The answer
is tw?-f?ld: Better light-emitting
di?des with l?wer-c?st sens?rs, wireless transmitters
and micr?pr?cess?rs. LED techn?l?gy has made maj?r strides in recent
years. Early pr?ducts struggled t? pr?duce a quality light ?r simply en?ugh ?f it. T?day, h?wever, the quality and light ?utput ?f LED lamps is c?mparable t? traditi?nal s?urces. The result is
rapidly increasing ad?pti?n, particularly in the c?mmercial sect?r where LED installati?ns and retr?fits are taking place in
supermarkets and department st?res, banks, ?ffice buildings, h?tels, restaurants,
arenas, wareh?uses and many ?ther types ?f facilities. In fact,
acc?rding t? a rep?rt by gl?bal management c?nsulting firm McKinsey & C?mpany, LED usage will reach ab?ut 70 percent in c?mmercial envir?nments by 2020, up dramatically fr?m just between 10% t? 20% t?day. At the same time,
advances in electr?nics and manufacturing
have ushered in a new generati?n ?f much smaller, m?re p?werful, less expensive wireless sens?rs, transmitters, and pr?cess?rs that easily integrate
with LED lights where illuminati?n is achieved by m?vement ?f electr?ns thr?ugh a semic?nduct?r material, ?pp?sed t? sending an electrical discharge thr?ugh an i?nized gas. It all has the
industry excited, and rightly s?. This c?nvergence ?f intelligence and
infrastructure will create realities fr?m a previ?us imaginati?n. Fr?m parking and traffic t? temperatures, humidity, precipitati?n, ?z?ne levels and p?lluti?n, streetlights are p?siti?ned t? be the key real estate that indicates h?w certain attributes ?f a city are perf?rming. F?r example, parking in the intelligent city ?f the future will n?t be m?re painful like it is n?w, by using a Netw?rked LED street lights —
the neur?l?gical system ?f the interc?nnected metr?p?lis — that will have the
ability t? direct drivers t? the nearest available spaces. The same streetlight c?uld serve as a seismic sens?r and act as an indicat?r beac?n in the event ?f an earthquake. Warnings ?r instructi?ns c?uld be carried acr?ss a public-address
speaker c?ncealed within the light
p?st, as well. A push-t?-talk system, meanwhile, c?uld pr?ve invaluable in an emergency resp?nse situati?n. These features may be
aspirati?nal but dem?nstrate h?w, s??ner rather than later,
LED streetlights will be a critical part ?f high-perf?rming netw?rks that give cities a
real-time view ?f what’s g?ing ?n. In fact, s?me are already disc?vering what’s p?ssible, including the city ?f San Dieg?, which is n?w using wireless micr?pr?cess?rs t? m?ve t?ward a metered (rather
than ?at-rate) tari? f?r its streetlight energy
usage with its l?cal utility c?mpany. The techn?l?gy pr?vides accurate energy
metering (specific usage inf?rmati?n) ?f San Dieg?’s LED streetlights, all?wing the city t? pay ?nly f?r what it uses. The Main
idea is that cities are beginning t? understand that
intelligent street lighting can make a big di?erence—saving m?ney, making m?ney, enhancing citizen
satisfacti?n and, ultimately,
leaving a lasting impact. Facilities such as ?ffices and high-rises can als? capitalize ?n the digital nature ?f LED t? c?nnect lights and sens?rs t? each ?ther and t? a building’s IT netw?rk. The result can be a rich array ?f l?cati?n specific data ?n r??m ?ccupancy, am?unt ?f daylight, temperature,
humidity and ?ther variables. Using
this data, the techn?l?gy mediates envir?nmental, user and
building inf?rmati?n t? b?th save energy and maintain ?ccupant c?mf?rt. As with sens?rs and transmitters,
lighting pr?cess?rs are bec?ming m?re s?phisticated and less c?stly, and widespread c?mmercial ad?pti?n remains ?nly a matter ?f time. In fact, Title 24 ?f the Calif?rnia Energy C?mmissi?n’s efficiency standards
mandates the use ?f lighting pr?cess?rs in s?me new buildings. Enacted in 2013, it is am?ng the first pieces ?f legislati?n ?f its kind, and, und?ubtedly, an indicati?n ?f things t? c?me. Integrated micr?pr?cess?rs—where lighting c?ntr?l is interfaced with a
building aut?mati?n system (BAS) t? simultane?usly manage heating, ventilati?n and c??ling (HVAC)—have the
greatest p?tential t? elevate ?perati?ns t? new levels ?f efficiency and e?ectiveness. F?r instance, an
intelligent ?ffice might want t? aut?matically dim lights ?n a sunny day t? limit wasteful energy
use ?r turn d?wn the heat in a cr?wded c?nference r??m t? keep ?ccupants c?mf?rtable. Light is even changing the way we experience
retail st?res. Ind??r l?cati?n techn?l?gy—a f?rm ?f Visible Light C?mmunicati?n (VLC)—is making it p?ssible f?r lights t? “talk” t? sh?ppers by leveraging LED m?dulati?n (the “pulse pattern” pr?duced by an LED light s?urce, which is unique, like a fingerprint). This pattern, while
imperceptible t? the human eye, can be
detected by the cameras ?n smartph?nes and tablets, meaning LED fixtures with embedded
sens?rs can pinp?int a cust?mer’s exact l?cati?n in a st?re—pr?vided that cust?mer ?pts in and is currently using the retailer’s app ?n a m?bile device. A??rdable, c?nnected s?luti?ns are even making it p?ssible f?r pe?ple t? manage the lighting in
their h?mes fr?m anywhere in the w?rld. Intelligent LED bulbs that can be c?ntr?lled via smartph?ne are n?w available f?r as little as 15€. These fit standard s?ckets and c?nnect t? a central hub in the h?use, all?wing individual ?r gr?up c?ntr?l ?f dimming and scheduling (aut?mating lights t? turn ?n when y?u wake up, turn ?? when y?u leave ?r dim when bedtime appr?aches). In time, bulbs c?uld even be “taught” t? resp?nd t? an individual’s presence ?r a change in light level thanks t? learning alg?rithms that rec?rd and recall pers?nal preferences. The fact
is lighting is just ?ne aspect ?f the future c?nnected city, building ?r h?me, where all appliances
functi?n fr?m a single hub. It’s all
further pr??f ?f techn?l?gy’s p?wer t? bring us t?gether—minds and
machines. Light has changed little ?ver a century, but thanks
t? smaller sens?rs, smarter pr?cess?rs—and big imaginati?ns—the years ahead pr?mise an unprecedented shift in the r?le lighting plays in ?ur lives. We w?n’t kn?w it at first, but when parking’s a cinch and sh?pping’s d?ne in a snap, and we
return t? ?ur warmly lit h?mes, then we’ll feel
light’s t?uch all ar?und us, c?mf?rting us and c?nnecting us in all new
ways.

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