Lighting control – a look into the future

So, it is finally happening. Lighting control systems are booming with new intuitive and user-friendly applications. “Actually, lighting will form the core of our connected working environments”, says Daniel Unoson, Product and Application Manager at Fagerhult, looking into his crystal ball to see where we will end up next.

You know the feeling: The growing frustration when trying to master the remote control in the conference room, while your customers are impatiently watching your every move. Or the defeat of calling the hotel front desk in the middle of the night on how to turn off the **** floor lamp that won’t respond to your feverish commands on the control panel. After decades of more or less intricate, non-user-friendly system solutions we’re finally up for a shift in paradigms. Lighting control systems have become more accessible and easier to install and use. At the same time, demand is growing really fast. 

There are several different factors behind the development, says Daniel.

“As sustainability is an increasingly important issue in business, companies are searching for a way to minimise energy consumption. In this, lighting control systems are the natural approach. The new connectivity opens up for creative solutions and user-friendly interfaces enhancing
the benefits.”

The Internet of Things phenomena is exponentially growing. Right now about 8 billion units are connected. In 2020 the figure is estimated to between 50–100 billion.

“No one really knows how much or how fast it will grow. But lighting plays a central part in this new Internet of Things infrastructure. As lighting is present everywhere, in every building, it’s a natural connecting point.”

Connected lighting

Using data from the lighting system is an interesting topic. 

“The lighting system could connect with ventilation or communication systems in conference rooms. It could also be developed to integrate with the occupancy cloud giving the company information about occupancy, space efficiency and cleaning. The collected occupational data from the lighting control system can be of economic value. Right now, we see a lot of different ideas developing on the market. For example, different providers of vending machines or cleaning services could be willing to pay for information on how to manage their activities in the best way. And as long as it doesn’t intrude on personal integrity – and the system is only logging activity, no personal data – it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Simplicity is key

This also changes the traditional role of the lighting company.

“We’re not just a developer of innovative luminaires. Our knowledge in the field of lighting – what light is, the magic within and how it can be controlled for the greater good – is something that our customers expect us to share in our different control systems.”

“In order to make those solutions effective, we have to offer a wide range of systems covering the different needs of different organisations. From advanced, heavily programmed customised solutions with fixed router connections, to easy-installed plug & play solutions – and everything in between.” 

It’s quite obvious that different ways of working needs different approaches to lighting – and that a renovation and refurbishment project will have other requirements than a new construction.

“The trend is obvious. Systems should be easy to install, program and use – simplicity is key. The possibility of continuous changes in the set-up is also important. I think that DALI will be the protocol used for controlling light also in the future, but the medium of transporting the signals, via wires or wireless, might be of another type.”

How about using the lighting system for Internet access? Wireless Internet through ‘LiFi’ seems to be one of the hottest topics right now? 

“Hmm… I’ve tested LiFi and yes, it works. But it is still very limited, as you have to direct the phone’s camera at the luminaire at all times. If not, connection is disrupted. The way smartphones are designed today it makes it a bit hard to do the actual surfing. LiFi is an exciting technology but in situations where you have WiFi up and running, LiFi cannot compete. For the moment…”

Application area