LEDs Change Thinking About the Light Bulb




Lights are no longer just for lighting.

With the development of LED lamp technology, the lowly light bulb is doing more than turning on and off. A lamp can be the centerpiece of an environment meant to improve health, moods and even food. LEDs can create light in multiple colors, generate less heat and use a fraction of the energy of older types of bulbs. And LEDs can be controlled remotely from a PC or smartphone app, as programmable as a television.

“You have to start thinking of light as a drug,” said Terry K. McGowan, the director of engineering for the American Lighting Association, a trade group.

That is why Lighting Science, an LED manufacturer, is now selling Awake and Alert, an LED lamp that keeps people pumped up by pumping up the blue. Conversely, the company’s Good Night lighting product reduces the blue output, helping people sleep. This summer, Lighting Science will offer its Rhythm Downlight, a lamp controlled by a smartphone app that adjusts blue light based on a user’s sleep schedule.

While the ability to alter an LED lamp’s color opens up new uses for light, the fact that LEDs can be remotely controlled significantly changes their potential. The Awake and Alert, an LED lamp from Lighting Science, pumps out blue light, which stimulates a photoreceptor in the eye that reduces melatonin production and helps a person stay awake.

With Osram Sylvania’s ULTRA iQ system, users can program lamps to turn on when a key is put in the lock. Philips’s Hue system, on the other hand, allows users to create their own lighting moods and then send those instructions to special lamps via a smartphone app. The lights can also be programmed to respond to specific events, such as by glowing a prescribed color when it is time to remove the roast from the oven.

For example, sensors could tell how many people are in a room and their location, and direct the proper amount of lighting to where it is needed. Medical patients prone to agitation could be calmed once facial recognition technology identifies them and changes the hue of an examining room to more calming tones. When older people enter a room, lighting intensity can be raised to compensate for their decreased ability to see.


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