Smart Lighting

Picture this: you are watching a space horror movie like the original Alien movie. The heroine is trapped on a spaceship and is being stalked by some unknown alien horror. She slowly moves through dimly lit hallways cautiously making her way to the escape pod. You know what is waiting just around the corner, or below the floor grates or even in the ceiling. She has only a few rounds remaining for her space rifle, two flares and knife. Will it be enough to get her to safety? Sensors are telling her that not one object but multiple objects are coming forward and fast – the aliens. The music intensifies, the anticipation builds as the heroine moves inch by inch forward. A knot forms in the middle of her stomach. Will she ever see her daughter again? A flashback happens and you see an idyllic scene of the heroine pushing her 5-year-old daughter on a swing. An eerie noise brings her back to the present, the grim reality of where she is. She slowly moves forward and comes to a junction in the hallway. It is so dark, she looks left, then right and then…

Now if ACME Spacecraft Inc (formerly ACME Corporation) the makers of her spaceship had used Smart Lighting sensors from ams, all of this could have been avoided. How do you ask? As the heroine and the aliens are moving around the ship, lights would turn on as movement was detected and lighting was needed. She would know right away if an alien was near or not. In fact, she could just walk to the escape pod and leave. However, that would not make for an exciting movie. So who is ams and what is Smart Lighting?

ams is an Austrian-based sensor company that has a series of spectral sensors that use XYZ tri-stimulus technology that can measure light waves in the VIS and IR (both NIR and MIR) ranges. Part families such as AS7221, AS7211 and the AS7225 are used in the real world today and not the future of tomorrow.

Smart Lighting is the latest buzz in technology to hit the world especially for our Internet of Things (IoT) world, naturally following smart devices like smart phone, smart watch and smart cats. So what exactly is Smart Lighting? Well we can look at it in four different ways. Smart Lighting can:

  • Provide lighting by need
  • Set the mood, color and tone in a space
  • Maintain consistency and health
  • Save energy

Let’s look at each in a little more detail.

Lighting by need

As in the story, there can be sensors in a room or space that detect human presence and then turns the lights on. When the presence is gone, the lights turn off. This is a great cost savings that large facilities are currently using. This application is ideal in warehouse and office applications where the space has periods of inactivity when lighting is not needed but automatically comes on in demand.

Lighting for mood, color and tone

Another use for smart lighting is creating the right color for the space. For example, the lighting used for a nightclub is very different than what is used in a retail store. Even within a retail store, light colors could change depending on the product focus of that area. The lighting used for the fruits and vegetable section could be different than what is used in the canned goods section.

Contrast the image above with the one below. Both spaces are occupied by people and require lighting, but the mood, color and tones are very different. Different spaces and different activities require different lighting.

Now another example would be the use of lighting in an upscale restaurant. During the day, the restaurant is set for a specific fast turnaround crowd, and the menu reflects this with soups, salads and sandwiches. The lighting is bright and energetic to help move people in and out faster.

As evening comes, the menu changes to the full menu with steaks, specialty dishes, and a wine list to die for. (Or in my case, a dessert list to die for.) The lighting also changes; it softens, intensities go down, and a more romantic setting is established. A perfect spot to take the special someone in your life. The patrons expect a great meal, great service and know that they will be charged more. The restaurant knows that the evening crowd stays longer and expects more, so they offer more on the menu. With smart lighting, a restaurant can change per time and needs.

Lighting for consistency and health

The next example of smart lighting is used in spaces that have access to natural lighting like in an office space or classroom. This is known as “tunable light”. As the natural lighting changes through the day, the intensity of the light will change as needed. So at the brightest part of the day, the lights will be the dimmest. Why would you do that?

Lighting consistency is important in both school and office settings. So that college math class at 7 AM should have the same intensity as the same class at 11 AM or 4 PM. Or better yet, after taking a 7 AM class the intensity could be brighter and the tones could be more energetic to wake up the students and teacher. Smart Lighting will naturally adjust and help keep teachers, students and workers more awake and attentive which can help with productivity.

Lighting that saves energy

Energy savings is very important in our lives—why use more when you don’t have to? With smart lighting, light fixtures will vary their intensity to maintain specific space lighting levels per the natural light that is coming in from windows. The chart below shows a great example of three lights; as the fixtures’ locations get closer to the window, the light intensity is reduced. These fixtures will also change intensity during the course of the day if it is becoming evening or during weather events like rain storms. All this is done automatically, though, being IoT ready, the lights can be controlled remotely if needed.

ams has many sensor products, but they recently came out with three that are ideal for smart lighting applications. The AS7211 is a Smart Daylight Manager, the AS7221 is Spectral Tuning Lighting Manager, and the AS7225 is a smart lighting director. Smart Lighting sensors from ams can provide lighting by need, save energy, and provide a consistent and healthy environment. People will feel more alert with renewed energy that promotes task accuracy. All this is exciting stuff, but the most important question still remains.

Does the heroine escape from the aliens and make it safely to the escape pod? Don’t know; you will have to wait for the sequel.

About this author

Image of Stephen Wegscheid Stephen Wegscheid, Senior Product Manager-Semiconductors at Digi-Key Electronics, specializes in analog/linear electronics, connectivity products, and single-board computers. He has a Master of Science degree from Bemidji State University and over 25 years of experience in design, manufacturing, and distribution. Additionally, he is the holder of a US patent.
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