Creating Smarter, More Intelligent Workspaces with Connected Lighting
Technology has become increasingly people-centric and supported by powerful connectivity, the “internet of things” is driving new ways to collaborate, innovate and socialize. The same is now true in a smart office environment, where lighting is going beyond just illumination and aesthetics to help create smarter and more intelligent workspaces that offer higher occupant comfort, flexibility, and profitability.
With its entry into the IoT, the lighting industry is following a technology trend that’s fundamentally changing the way that devices — from mobile phones to farm equipment to thermostats — interact with each other and with the people who use them. In the IoT, devices collect and share data about themselves, their users, their environments, and other devices with which they connect. This data, in turn, provides insights that were never available before and allows business to create connected applications and services that deliver new capabilities and value to their employees and customers. Connected lighting can offer similar insights about a building by integrating seamlessly with the IT systems in the building, demonstrating how dynamic office spaces can become smarter and more efficient than ever before. Each luminaire in the system sends and receives data, serving as a pathway to deliver value to employees, CIO’s and facilities managers. Managers can track occupancy patterns, changes in temperature, light levels, and much more while employees can personalize the lighting around their desks. The system allows maximum visibility and better control and allows offices to reduce energy consumption. While typically lighting is responsible for 40 percent of a building’s electricity use, IoT enabled lighting can dramatically reduce this energy consumption.
Office lighting can also impact employees’ circadian rhythm and impact their overall productivity, mood, and health. As per a recent market report, almost 87 percent of an average office worker’s time is spent indoors. As people now spend less time outdoors, they consequently have less exposure to the natural rhythms of daylight.
Connected lighting can enable offices to design indoor lighting to mimic the effects of natural daylight in an office, helping to optimize people’s circadian rhythms which can thereby improve their overall mood and productivity. If we consider the case of an R & D or a technology organization in India, even a 2 percent improvement in productivity can lead to an incremental increase of INR 50,000 in revenue per employee per year, while reduced absenteeism and added health benefits can save around 15,000 INR per employee per year. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain’s pineal gland and is responsible for the regulation of the body clock in each individual. The release of this hormone is largely controlled by exposure to natural light, or a lack thereof. In the morning, melatonin levels decrease upon exposure to natural daylight and help the body feel more attentive and alert. In a knowledge-based economy where people’s productivity is a key factor, organizations can explore the idea of a “Light Shower”, wherein exposure to the right light spectrum can reduce the levels of melatonin hormone and thereby enhance employees’ attentiveness and productivity.
“Connected lighting can offer similar insights about a building by integrating seamlessly with the IT systems in the building, demonstrating how dynamic office spaces can become smarter and more efficient than ever before.”
Aside from the massive amounts of mined data, building optimization, and energy savings; connected lighting can help create a pleasing workspace for employees with personal lighting and temperature control. In the near future, we will also see LED lighting becoming integrated into different surfaces, for example, carpets, that can be used to help staff and visitors navigate offices, display directions, and safety messages, or live information and updates via the Internet. We are already beginning to see light-points acting as ‘in-premise’ GPS to provide location-based services inside a building or a mall, and then provide contextual personalized information to that individual. In the office setting, this could mean helping staff members find the availability of nearby meeting rooms and thereby helping them improve productivity. All these features can enable companies to create true workplaces of the future — which is key to attracting the next generation of users.
Interestingly, while India will have the youngest employable population in the world by 2020 with the average age of 29, it is predicted that as flexibility and ease of work goes up, the average retirement age will also increase, resulting in a workforce that is multi-generational and more diverse than ever before. Thus, workplaces for a young India will need to be designed to keep employee comfort, wellbeing, energy efficiency and connectivity in mind.
It is very heartening to see that many progressive organizations are already recognizing these different needs of their diverse employees and taking innovative steps to address them. By implementing technologies that save energy, reduce costs and create a more dynamic and engaging working environment, the power is in our hands to connect to a smarter, brighter, more productive future.