February 6, 2019

What is the future of lighting?

There was a time, not so long ago, that you had two choices with regards to your lights. They were either off or on. Then came dimmer-switches, and we enjoyed romantically lit dinners in our homes and focused on PowerPoint presentations in ambient darkness in boardrooms across the world. LED’s arrived giving us all more sustainable and flexible products, and the tech-revolution has resulted in lights that we can talk to, lights that can notify us of air quality on the roads, and lighting that can sense your movements. It is safe to say that we have reached ‘peak-choice’ when it comes to lighting and its new additional functions. So the future of lighting looks to be a busy and ‘smart’ one.

But it is not just about being ’smart’, there is another, much larger factor of lighting that has emerged over recent years that will greatly affect the lighting choices we, and those responsible for buildings, offices and cities, will make. It has been proven that lighting, and the lit environment you live and work in, plays a huge role in maintaining, supporting and even improving your health and wellbeing.

Lighting is moving from a technology dominant phase into a user-focused phase. Till now, lighting manufacturers created products that focused on the technology, the “what can it do and how does it do it” lighting products.  Today, they are focusing on what the effect the light has on the people around it, if you like the “how does it affect real people” solutions.

Human Centric Lighting (HCL) has only recently filtered through to the global lighting industry and has fast become the buzz topic of recent years. But why now? Well, the technology has caught up, the price points are getting lower and the research findings can’t be ignored.  Another huge factor is also the fact that we are spending 90% of our lives in artificially lit environments and it is taking its toll on our health.

We have evolved to do many things, but one thing that has not changed or reprogrammed is our bodies internal rhythms, based around our relationship sun and moon light.  This internal, hard wired pattern is called our circadian rhythm. It influences our energy levels and mental alertness, our ability to sleep and even to metabolise food. The expanse of if impact is still undefined, but it is proven that once we disrupt our natural pattern, it can cause all kinds of issues for our general well-being and health.

The great news is that incredible scientists, with the lighting industry hanging on their every word, are conducting research into many ways to support our natural human needs. Classrooms are trialling lighting to calm young children in the afternoons, and to stimulate teenagers in the mornings, to improve concentration and literacy. NASA, and its team of astronauts on the space station, is trialling new ways to keep happy in space darkness.  Hospitals are testing soothing light in maternity wards to ease mothers and new born babies, and work places are now being designed to allow for personalisation of lighting brightness and colour in an effort to reduce the ‘afternoon blues’, which we can all get from time to time.

The more you are aware of HCL, and that you have a circadian rhythm to protect and maintain, the more you will notice the lighting around you.  It is this consumer awareness that will signal a sea of change for the lighting industry. So what is the future of lighting? It’s a human centric one.


Bronwen Rolls

Editor in Chief at Trends in Lighting