Lighting is on the way to digitization, expert predicts

March 01, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Two major trends currently determine the technical development in the lighting markets: LEDification, the transition to LEDs from CFLs and incandescent bulbs, and Digitization - essentially providing luminaires with a brain. These trends will direct technical development in lighting, said Kees van der Klauw, chief architect for Philips Lighting, at the International Semiconductor Forum recently held in Milan (Italy).

Today's LED lamps provide an efficiency of some 180 to 200 lumens per watt - good enough to stage an application breakthrough for LED lighting on a broad basis, van der Klauw said. And besides its superior electric efficiency, there are more reasons for consumers to switch to LED lighting: After all, LEDs allow a range of light effects not possible with traditional technologies such as changing color. "But the real LED Tsunami has yet to come", the expert said. The real LED Tsunami - this will be associated to the digitization of lighting, effectively making lighting smart.

Van der Klauw predicted that LEDs will greatly boost the diversity in lighting applications and that in order to escape the commodity trap, manufacturers are about to integrate more functions into the luminaires. This can be done at marginal cost, he added, but at the same time, these devices act as an enabler to novel applications. "Electronic lighting components enable value creation", he said.

For example, future luminaires will be equipped with intelligence - with microprocessors, sensors, power control components. "Every downlight should be able to sense if there is someone beneath or not", van der Klauw said. This intelligence can be used to dynamically and automatically adapt lighting to the needs in offices or homes. In order to implement the local intelligence, an intra-luminaire bus - perhaps based on existing technologies such as I2C or RS485 - needs to be defined to connect these elements. The low-level protocols that tie these smart luminaires together in a larger ecosystem already exist, for example DALI or DMX could be used. Groups of luminaires will be connected in the internet of things, enabling local application specific networks.

The smart lighting systems will provide data to office operators: The lighting system can tell how often rooms are occupied and how enable operators to understand usage patterns.

As important as functional requirements are non-functional ones such