Putting things in a better light: lockdown & beyond…

Author : John E Osborne II | General Manager | Leedarson | Chair Emeritus of the Zigbee Alliance

01 July 2020

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Even before people around the world were told to ‘stay at home’ in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, smart lighting has been illuminating a new pathway for improved everyday life. Personalised solutions are just beginning to penetrate indoor & outdoor spaces, and are poised for significant growth as wireless standards & ecosystems continue to align.

This article was originally featured in EPDT's H2 2020 IoT & Industry 4.0 supplement, included in the July 2020 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

With people temporarily restricted, providing the time, desire and focus to improve the space around them, lighting is one ‘smart’ area in particular that can boost more than just visibility. John E Osborne II, General Manager at lighting & IoT solution provider, Leedarson and Chair Emeritus of the Zigbee Alliance, explains why he believes everyone from product designers and test engineers to facilities managers, installers and consumers will see a surge in new devices making their way to market throughout 2020.

In this article, we will discuss ‘smart’ lighting and the timely topic of in-home health and wellness. With much of the world currently in the grip of an unprecedented lockdown, electronics provide the connectivity and intelligence for more and more devices to hook into the Internet of Things. We consider why it’s important to have not just a smart home or a security solution, but also connected solutions to help monitor and support those we are socially distanced from – whether by distance or the lockdown itself. IoT technologies can help enable monitoring, by family as well as healthcare professionals, for conditions in case of emergency – but also for ongoing monitoring of general wellbeing, mood and peace of mind (for instance, reminders to take medication, eat properly, exercise or communicate and socialise).

Health & wellness

Rise, shine & sleep

One area that’s especially helpful right now, as days seem to blur together, is intelligent lighting to support waking up and going to bed. Students the world over are distance-learning, rather than attending school. Parents struggling to maintain and enforce some semblance of schedules can lean on smart lighting to help wind up and wind down the body’s biological rhythms, which are stimulated by light. These systems can also be a great support for employees needing to shift sleep cycles to accommodate time zone differences, or for the many healthcare workers pulling erratic hours on the front lines throughout day and night.

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To help maintain normal circadian schedules that repeat every 24 hours, consider dawn simulators to mimic the rising sun and sleep lighting offerings to shepherd in a good night’s rest. Many smart bulbs are designed to mirror these circadian rhythms – changing from warm, reddish hues to cool blues depending on the time of day. In addition, lighting can be scheduled to turn on softly and increase in brightness, then progressively dim as you move through the evening and drift off to sleep.

Combat SADness

In addition to synchronising with night and day cycles, lighting can be used to enhance moods by increasing or decreasing lumen levels. Based on weather patterns throughout the day, or simply one’s state of mind, intelligent lighting – in parallel with professional medical guidance – can complement light therapies to help combat seasonal swings, such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Smart lighting for all ages

Moving beyond the smart home, smart lighting applications are well-suited for venues that cater to all generations. For example, imagine the benefits within convalescent nursing facilities – tailored to individual needs, or even across floors – to help maintain comfort, safety and quality of life for elderly populations. Lighting can also be personalised within hospitals for use across wards or as required, depending on circumstances such as night-nursing, recovery, neonatal units and so on.

On the topic of younger populations, another wonderful application is within childcare facilities. Intelligent lighting can be applied to help wind children down before nap times, or to help them wake up and return to daytime activities. It can also be toned down at the end of the day to help prepare children for the final stage of the day, as they are handed over to their parents for dinner, bath and bedtime.

Security & safety

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Colour-code home security & safety

Lighting is already part of many homes and building security systems, working in unison with camera technology. Most consumers are familiar with lights controlled by sensors and timers to flag movement or deter unwanted entry. But lighting – especially offerings that provide colour change, such as the Philips Hue smart bulb product line – can add an additional layer of protection, and more importantly a call for assistance. For example, smart lighting devices can be linked to security systems and, based on situations such as intrusion, an emergency inside the dwelling, or toxic levels of smoke or carbon dioxide, lights throughout the complex can be turned to red or orange to indicate help is required. This visual assist can be a tremendous application, especially for elderly or hearing-impaired residents living alone, and many smart lightbulbs already have colour capability.

Maintaining connections to independent seniors

It’s important to have not just a smart home and security solution in place, but to also ensure these systems are connected to the cloud to monitor and support populations such as the elderly. Loved ones living alone nearby or separated by distance can be monitored by family, friends and doctors in case of emergency or simply on an ongoing basis to help with reminders regarding medications, eating properly, exercising and the like. Smart lighting specifically can support the aging population by creating a more comfortable living environment through the ability to voice-command lighting use or to program systems to turn on and off automatically throughout the day. The use of colour-lighting within the dwelling can be especially helpful for seniors particularly those suffering from hearing loss – offering not only audible cues but also visuals to maintain daily activities.

Today, consumers can surround themselves with highly customised digital living simply by connecting common IoT devices already available on the market. To go beyond DIY and to tailor systems for more life-changing and life-saving circumstances, users can tap into smart home experts to create particular features, rules, triggers and ways to enhance home life.

Summary

IoT ‘inventioneers’ are helping transform the way humans function in today’s digital world. Now is a prime time for designers and integrators to sharpen their smart skills – specifically smart lighting know-how – to support the expected influx of interest across homes and facilities. Global design experts, such as those from IoT/lighting leaders like Leedarson, continue to advance residential IoT innovation. LED engineering excellence combined with industry collaboration is casting a better, more customised light across (stay at) home life and beyond.


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