The rapid rise of LEDs shows how quickly the lighting industry can be transformed. Jim Dawson, of SG Lighting, predicts the next revolution to sweep the market
The lighting industry could be on the brink of a smart tech revolution, which will boost workers’ wellbeing and improve productivity at the flick of a switch.
Biodynamic solutions that work in harmony with human body clocks are forecast to be at the forefront of future innovation.
They involve tunable white lighting, which uses a range of adjustable colour temperatures that replicate outdoor conditions and have been shown to have an effect on people’s emotions.
And their rise could be as rapid as the sudden surge in LEDs seen in recent years – transforming how we illuminate offices, factories, schools and hospitals.
Proving the benefits
Jim Dawson, Technical Manager at SG Lighting Ltd, predicted: “The next thing that is going to revolutionise the lighting industry will be 100% tunable white lighting.
“The human body has evolved over thousands of years to take our body clock cues from the sun.
“Biodynamic lighting is about giving back what we’ve lost by moving into these artificially lit caves we call homes and offices. We’re able to do this with a lighting system that is able to emulate the changing colour temperatures and changing intensity of outdoor lighting.”
Jim believes the rise in popularity of tunable white lighting is being driven by two factors – a cut in costs and research backing its benefits.
He said: “The cost has come down hugely. It used to only be in higher end ranges but now we have solutions which cost slightly less than the old fluorescent lighting. It’s very affordable now.
“The other factor is that research has been done showing the significant difference it can make. Biodynamic lighting has been around for a while but it was very difficult to get anyone to put solid figures to it. A test was done on a production line and there was a five to seven per cent increase in productivity. In a call centre it cut sickness by two per cent. That’s a massive amount of money to save.”
Jim highlighted two main ways tunable white lighting is used. He explained: “There’s a basic version – a teacher who wants kids to be alert in the morning can set it to a colder colour, like 6500K. At lunch you might go to 3000K to make it more relaxed.
“Then the gold standard is a true biodynamic 24-hour system. You link it to a 24-hour clock and it cycles on whatever rhythm you’ve chosen. It’s so smooth you’d never know the light was changing. Those systems have been expensive in the past. But we’ve brought in our own app control and it’s almost no money now. You can do it through a wireless DALI system and get a top end tunable white lighting system without the need for any wet trades or rewiring. It’s a game changer.”
Jim insists the move to smarter lighting won’t present a challenge for installers. He said: “There are almost no differences in installing a normal LED lighting solution versus a tunable white system.
“In the past, if you were doing a tunable white lighting solution it was essentially two systems in one – you’d have one at 3000K and one at 6500K. It was almost like having two light fittings in one, but that’s gone now and it’s really very simple.”
Describing one project he worked on at a school in Dundee, Jim added: “They didn’t have the budget to change all the wiring. But using a wireless DALI system they were able to introduce controls by just changing the light fittings. No extra wiring required, no fuss and it was all done in a heartbeat.”
Although the technology is only just starting to take off in the UK, it’s already widely used across northern Europe, particularly in hospitals.
Staff can use ‘sunshowers’ which drench them in 17000K light to help they stay alert through night shifts when other lighting is dimmed.
Jim believes the impact of the new technology will soon be seen more widely. He added: “We’ve had LG3 and LG7 and they’re the standards at the moment, but I’d be surprised if LG7 didn’t become superseded or at least involve an element of tunable white lighting. Five years ago we were talking about LED as something that might take over the market in the next ten or 15 years. Now almost every product we sell in the UK is LED.
“It’s going to be a long time before we see a revolution as fast as that but if you’re looking for what’s going to happen next, tunable white is right up there with the next generation.”