How human-centric lighting adds shine in mobility applications

Author : Xavier Denis | Technical Marketing Manager | NICHIA

01 May 2020

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There is currently no shortage of trauma in the world of travel & transport. The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating effect not just on human health, but also the economy – with the airline industry hit particularly hard. Right now, the idea of long-haul air travel is, understandably, an unappealing concept to many.

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Nonetheless, as Xavier Denis, Technical Marketing Manager at LED lighting specialist, NICHIA explains, the notion that technology can be utilised to help passengers feel more at ease, or in tune, with their environment, is a concept attracting an increasing amount of attention...

Indeed, the longest ever flight, which touched down in Sydney at the end of 2019, after a 16,200-km, 19-hour journey from New York, was part of an experiment to see how ultra-long-haul travel affects those on board. On the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, operated by Qantas, a team of researchers was deployed to monitor the influence of the aircraft’s lighting system on the activity, sleep patterns and consumption levels of passengers. Australia’s national airline says it is aiming to boost in-flight health and wellness, minimise jet lag and calculate optimum crew work patterns. In an increasing number of mobility applications, including long-haul flights – and others in the wider transportation arena – human-centric lighting (HCL) solutions from lighting technology specialists such as NICHIA are already having a hugely positive impact.

With the transport sector shifting towards human-centric mobility across the air, rail and road sectors, there is growing demand for HCL as it mimics the natural daylight that drives bodily functions, enhancing human performance, comfort, health and wellbeing. Solutions from LED manufacturers are spearheading this trend, with a number of exciting projects already underway – and many more in the pipeline.

“Commercial aircraft lighting is being reshaped around the passenger experience, with the introduction of automated systems for cabin lights having a positive impact on traveller wellbeing,” explains Xavier Denis, Technical Marketing Manager at NICHIA. “For instance, on long-haul flights, pleasant cabin lighting, with tunable white capability, induces a more relaxed mood, while the use of warm white lighting, with high CRI (colour rendering index), at mealtimes brings about a better perception of food colour, influencing consumption habits. LED tunable white light solutions also help reduce jet lag, tapping into circadian rhythms by simulating the sun, for example.”

Further aircraft applications able to take advantage of HCL include boarding/exit areas. Here, adaptive cabin lights engender a welcoming atmosphere, managing stress levels and helping people take their seats more quickly. In a similar way, HCL benefits airport areas such as terminal entrances, check-in, security and flight gates, again helping to alleviate stress levels.

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Rail and road transport is also being enhanced by HCL, which is essential in an era when population levels are growing at record rates, and more and more people are relocating to cities. By 2050, it is estimated that 75% of the global population will live in urban areas.

The upshot of this urban migration is that cities are becoming increasingly challenged by ever-greater social, economic and environmental aspects, which in turn require transportation and infrastructure to be adapted accordingly. Digitalisation has a huge role to play, supporting solutions such as shared transport schemes, autonomous driving, electric vehicles and connected vehicles, not to mention connected railway stations and bus hubs.

Many railway stations are already equipped with circadian lighting, while pleasant cabin lights inside both trains and buses can have an immediate effect on those looking to relax, with tunable white lighting again providing the optimum solution.

Human-centric lighting is also helping to enhance road vehicle design. For example, legislation is setting mandatory CO 2  emission reduction targets in many countries, requiring the improvement of existing LED technologies for interior systems. The latest interior designs of both conventional and electric vehicles therefore require not only energy-efficient light sources, but digital light distribution to ensure visibility, communication and safety.

Controllability, combined with advanced LED chip, phosphor and packaging technology, results in greater power efficiency. Advanced phosphors, in particular, are being optimised for better light extraction, while continuous improvement in packaging technologies and thermal management allows for better efficacy at high operating temperatures.

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Ultimately, HCL solutions comprising white tunable matrices of LEDs are capable of delivering the levels of advanced controllability required in future road vehicles, delivering light where it is needed, in the colour required and, ultimately, transforming traditional lighting systems to smart adaptive ambient light.

Another good example will be the transition to autonomous driving, where the interiors of cars will become more like living or office spaces. Such applications are already driving up demand for high-quality white HCL. Adjustable lighting will become a prerequisite, with passengers selecting the tone to suit work, entertainment or relaxation, for example. Digitalisation will again help to increase the functionalities of lighting systems used in vehicles of this type.

NICHIA is advancing proprietary technology in tunable LEDs and specific spectra for HCL applications. “State-of-the-art spectrum technology can be used to stimulate human activity,” explains Denis. “This type of technology is ideal for the individual projection light in the business-class section of long-haul aircraft, for example, simultaneously bringing performance optimisation to crew areas. It also helps to combat tiredness or sleepiness in taxis or truck cabins.”

He continues: “Other advances in this area provide a natural light source with a spectrum that achieves the closest match to the sun yet created. Such a solution is perfect for ceiling lights in autonomous vehicles, with its high CRI enhancing readability and visibility. On trains, too, this technology will allow passengers to experience the natural light required for body clock synchronisation over the full duration of the journey.”

Many OEMs within the transportation sector are already engaged with HCL specialists as they move towards human-centric mobility platforms. With so much development in air, rail and road systems, solutions are being reached that shine a whole new light on human performance, comfort and wellbeing.


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