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Lighting Commentary

Lighting Found In A Crystal Ball

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Perhaps the most well-attended educational program at LightFair is a survey of progress in the lighting industry. One of the speakers started their portion with a reminder of Amara’s Law. I think it a great place to begin this assessment also.

“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” – Roy Amara

Think back when LED was new. It was a panacea. Light would last 100,000 hours. Cancer would be cured. Cost would be reduced to pennies. Over-estimated? Check. The first half of the law is true.

Today, LED technology is saving millions of dollars in energy costs. The color of light is now more in-tune with the designed environment. LED can be wavelength configured to the demands of edible plants and thereby increase growth and yield, resulting in a reduction in hunger. Science is moments away from stating unequivocally that specific colors of light at specific times can aid in a variety of health concerns, sleeplessness and wellbeing. LED is poised to be a vehicle for increased home automation, better wireless communication and even more paradigm changes. Yet, we think of LED as a different type of light bulb. Under estimated? Check. The second half of the law is also true.

To bounce us from this complacency, here are a few of the things we can expect in the future. LED and solid-state lighting should not yet be taken for granted.

  • Expect better dimming, better color, more color tuning opportunities, tighter tolerances (variations) in output, and smaller physical size of the light source.
  • More granular lighting controls, down to each and every luminaire in a huge office complex, controlled via a smart phone app or computer program. If available already, added simplicity is around the corner.
  • The LED will become a critical sub-function of the much more complex communication technology employ into the future. More “processing” will be built into each luminaire making the actual lighting fixture a vehicle by which the building or home operates. This will increase the building’s operational efficacy and increase the occupant’s satisfaction.
  • Thanks to LED, wireless communication will increase its occupation in the visible light portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, thereby expanding the capacity by huge percentages. LiFi is on its way to become bigger than WiFi.
  • Autonomous vehicles will not require street lighting, further reducing electric demand. Even if driverless cars are not fully implemented, street lighting can be switched to an “on demand” mode via communication between the lamp post and the vehicle.
  • All of these changes within a category we can call, “lighting” will open the floodgates for bigger changes in quantum computing, brain interface computing and building-based, low-voltage electricity.         

Could all of this slip right into the primary phrase of Amara’s Law again? Have I and the futurists overestimated the impact of light in the next twenty years? Check back on my blog page in November of 2041!

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