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European Lighting Regulations Could Help Usher In Human-centric Lighting (MAGAZINE)
May 13, 2017

Look at the strategic 10-year roadmap for the European lighting industry, and the thing that stands out the most is the drive toward human-centric lighting (HCL) - the designing and tuning of LED light's biological, visual, and emotional effects to foster human health, wellbeing, and performance.

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As charted by Brussels-based industry association LightingEurope, HCL will emerge as the top business force in a few years' time, and will continue to gain prominence after that (Fig. 1).

Human-centric lighting represents a big part of a necessary sea change in the lighting industry business model, and one that could help ensure a future for the 1000+ companies, 100,000+ jobs, and €20 billion of yearly revenue of LightingEurope member companies, including 33 manufacturers. Everyone knows that the century-old business model of selling replacement incandescent bulbs is falling apart now that LED lamps have become commonplace and are expected to last for a decade or three. In its place, says LightingEurope, bring on the HCL.

The general idea is that lights will adjust their on/off, brightness, colors, and color temperatures to levels that optimize any particular setting. A schoolroom, hospital ward, or open-plan office might emphasize blue hues during the morning to stimulate alertness; reds and oranges might take over in appropriate settings in the evening for a calming effect. Brightness levels might increase in a public place when more visually-challenged senior citizens than better-sighted teenagers are present. And so on.

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FIG. 1. LightingEurope hopes that all regulatory routes, like its roadmap, lead to human-centric lighting.

As LEDs Magazine explored in a two-part series last summer and fall, HCL systems are already taking hold in hospitals and healthcare settings, and will slowly work their way into the workplace.

The benefits are potentially profound to people, business, and society: faster healing in hospitals; better educated and engaged kids; a more productive workforce; healthier, happier human beings (hence why you'll also see us refer to it as lighting for health and wellbeing).

So you might think that LightingEurope, which operates out of Europe's capital in large measure as a lobbying group to help shape lighting industry policy and regulations, is pushing hard and fast to mandate the adoption of HCL systems.

Not exactly. LightingEurope is angling to get regulators there alright. But it is taking a pragmatic approach, one regulatory step at a time.

With much of the science behind HCL still evolving and in need of further proof and case studies, the industry group is instead focusing on establishing regulations to implement the foundation technologies that could eventually support HCL.

Stepping stones

Consider, for a moment, that HCL aside, the industry is for other reasons already counting on selling the products, systems, and services that make it operational, and that support a profitable business model. As such, lighting infrastructure will morph into an information technology scheme. It will be full of sensors that detect things like human presence, motion, and natural light. Lights will connect both wirelessly and through Ethernet cable to phones, gadgets, and central control computers. The system will collect data to help it learn about and improve its own operations. The data will also hold tremendous value that could help run and inform other systems ranging from heating and cooling to marketing, sales, and promotions that might even be sold outside the company.

If that sounds familiar, it should. It's the same topology that is beginning to shape up in the myriad smart lighting schemes emerging today. Many of those fall short of true HCL. They might provide a rudimentary dose of the concept, supporting dimming or even changes in hue.

But for the most part, today's intelligent lighting schemes focus on energy savings and on data collection to help facilities managers make better use of their property and help retailers spot shopping trends and engage with customers.

With that in mind, Cis squarely engaged in two European Commission (EC) initiatives that could ultimately help establish IT systems as an integral aspect of lighting. Both concern themselves not with HCL per se but with energy savings.

One goes by the name of the Energy Performance Building Directive (EPBD). Specifically, the EC has proposed that the European Parliament amend the existing EPBD from 2010 so that it would require building owners to deploy "information and communications technology (ICT) and smart technologies" as a means to better control the energy consumption of building systems, and to include lighting.

The other initiative, called ENER Lot 37, is an EC study that examines the possibility of setting energy-efficiency requirements for lighting based on systems, rather than simply looking at the energy efficiency of a bulb. LightingEurope strongly encourages such an approach, and is furnishing the EC with ideas on how to accomplish it.

The IT mandate

From LightingEurope's perspective, the common thread between the EPBD and ENER Lot 37 is the potential to decree IT's role in lighting. That, in turn, sets the stage for full-on HCL a few years down the road.

"The opportunities that we have with the LEDification of the lighting business [are] that we are going from lamps that are made out of glass, and that function on certain physical and chemical rules, to a light source that functions on electronics," LightingEurope secretary general Diederik de Stoppelaar said in an interview with LEDs Magazine (Fig. 2). "And the electronics allow us to increase the scope of what we can do with lighting. There are simple examples, like we can change the color easily and, together with controls, we can do the most beautiful things with lighting and at the same time continue to save energy. We are moving up to intelligent lighting systems where of course the Internet of Things will play an important role. From there, with all the possibilities the Internet is offering, we will create human-centric lighting."