May 21 marked the 30th anniversary of LIGHTFAIR® International, and it proved to be the most advanced show of technology in the conference’s history. A team of NXT-Level-designated lighting specialists traveled to Philadelphia to attend the event. Below are highlights from what they learned about the latest trends in lighting technology.
- Controls—Intuitive setup and configuration mobile apps continue to gain in popularity. These apps include customizable dashboard formats and reporting capabilities to simplify functionality for system installers, programmers and space occupants.
Additionally, the lighting industry is venturing into control component compatibility. By using common communication protocols such as Zigbee, Bluetooth and BACnet, components from one or a mix of manufacturers may be able to speak with other building control systems. This flexibility opens up a broader range of product choices for designers.
With only a few control module manufacturers, including Synapse and Enlighted, the future will bring some form of standardization. Industry associations like ANSI and NEMA are working to create standards that address consistency in component performance, such as power monitoring, measurement metrics, flicker and security protocols.
- Connectivity—Educational sessions on Smart Parking Lot lighting and Connected Cities illustrated a movement toward municipal connectivity, where mesh systems of networked street lighting allow sensors to detect human presence and traffic anomalies.
While IoT (Internet of Things) was showcased at many show booths, it’s clear that the concept of “everything that can be connected will be connected” is daunting for manufacturers in an environment of continual product development. The IoT Ready Alliance—an alliance of leading lighting, building management, IoT companies and organizations—is attempting to reach a consensus on a common connection port that could lead to adaptation of sensors and controllers. Additionally, they have partnered with Zhaga to standardize interfaces of LED luminaire components, including LED light engines, LED modules, LED arrays, holders, electronic control gear (LED drivers) and connectivity fit systems.
- Lighting for Health—A major topic at his year’s conference was Lighting for Health, especially as relating to color and light output. Studies looking into controlling these two in tandem have shown a positive influence on building occupants’ attention spans and circadian effects. Specifically, some research has shown improved attentiveness in schools, and reduced stress in assisted care facilities and hospitals as a result of properly selecting color and illumination levels.
Circadian lighting in particular can benefit the human daily wake and sleep cycle by mimicking daylight, especially in spaces without windows. Current research is evaluating whether this approach may assist healing in hospitals. Along these lines, many manufacturers have introduced dim-to-warm features on LED lighting to mimic incandescent dimming—an effect accomplished by using a combination of warm and cool LEDs in varying proportions according to the dim level.
- Form Factor—While retrofits will be tied to the 2×4 ceiling metric for the foreseeable future, miniaturization in manufacturing has helped the industry create variances. An example demonstrated at this year’s conference, Cree Lighting’s Radiant dynamic skylight is a luminaire that uses color-changing LEDs to simulate the dawn-to-dusk, ever-changing sky conditions as seen through a skylight. Additionally, Acuity Lighting has introduced a planar 2×2 lensed LED fixture that uses microprisms to effectively simulate depth and contour to the flat panel.
Further signs of a strong industry were showcased at the conference, including advancements in materials and processes, and a move toward standardization in LEDs and lighting controls. It’s clear that improved efficiency combined with controllability will offer consistent lighting energy-saving opportunities for years to come.