The humble lightbulb has come a long way! Smart building research consultancy Memoori has gone so far as to declare that this is "the most exciting time for the lighting industry since the early twentieth century." Why is this significant for the people who manage and work in workplaces? Since lighting covers every usable square foot of a building, advances in lighting lead to developments that can elevate the entire workplace experience.
Here are 5 technological advances redefining the workplace lighting experience.
1. Human-Centric Lighting
Researchers first started to document the negative effects of poor fluorescent lighting in offices over two decades ago. Today, an increasing body of research is demonstrating the positive impacts of providing lighting that is more attuned to our biological needs. Numerous medical studies have shown that indoor lighting that better matches our circadian rhythms can minimize fatigue, promote general well-being, and improve mental acuity.
Human-centric lighting (HCL) taps into this new body of research and is an approach to tuning lighting so that it can support beneficial biological responses and behavior. For example, Ketra’s Natural Light system dynamically shifts throughout the day to match the sun's changing color temperature. HCL can lead to improvements in focus, memory, learning, concentration, and overall employee engagement.
Ketra was recently acquired by Lutron, one of the world's largest lighting controls and automated shading solution providers. At Comfy, we're especially excited because we have a history of working with Lutron to ensure technical compatibility and integration between Comfy and Lutron's offerings, including the Quantum light management system and Vive wireless solutions. We welcomed Lutron to the Works with Comfy partner ecosystem earlier this year and are looking forward to seeing how the Lutron-Ketra union will accelerate the widespread adoption of human-centric lighting.
2. Power over Ethernet
Instead of having a separate power source such as an electrical wire routed from the main electrical panel, or an AC adapter plugged into the wall, Power over Ethernet (PoE) allows devices to get power from the same ethernet cable used to connect with the internet.
Why is this a big deal? It is much cheaper and easier to route ethernet cables than electrical wiring. Workplaces benefit from easier installation and significant savings in capital expenditures because they no longer need to deploy separate cables for power and communication.
Cree, another Works with Comfy partner, is leveraging PoE with their SmartCast Intelligence Platform™ which can significantly cut energy costs and simplify the commissioning of hundreds of devices. Increasingly, we are seeing forward-thinking workplaces embrace PoE because it is scalable, cost-effective, and enables IoT (more on IoT below).
3. Greater Individualized Control
Today's employees expect an intuitive workplace experience, which includes greater individualized control over their workplace. Although many workplaces today are already outfitted with LED lighting, occupancy sensors, and manual controls to meet current building codes, all too often employees aren’t taking advantage of dimmable, localized lighting control. The reason: the light switch they need is not easily accessible or intuitive and all too often hiding somewhere on a confusing bank of switches somewhere. This means that unfortunately many of today’s employees struggle with both over-illumination of their workspace as well as poorly lit workspaces, conditions that lead to well-documented negative impacts in mental acuity.
Fortunately, workplace solutions like Comfy meet the demand for greater individualized control by bridging the gap between physical building systems and digital devices. With Comfy's lighting feature, office workers can use Comfy, the same app that they already use to control their thermal comfort and to book rooms, to also adjust lighting levels throughout the day.
4. Connected Lighting
The Internet of Things (IoT) is disrupting every aspect of our lives, and workplace lighting is no exception. Connected lighting is one exciting outcome of IoT. Because lighting fixtures are so pervasive, they are well-positioned to gather information about a building's environmental and occupancy conditions. With connected lighting, individual lighting fixtures are outfitted with IP addressable sensors, creating an expansive network capable of gathering data. This is information that was historically too time-consuming, costly, or physically impossible, to collect.
With the advent of connected lighting, the executives tasked with planning, delivering, and managing workplace services and real estate portfolios are better armed with the information they need. That's an important first step. Next, combining data from connected lighting systems with solutions, like Comfy, paints a multi-faceted picture of how people are interacting with their workplace and paves the way for improvements in operational efficiency, space utilization, energy efficiency, and the occupant experience.
More and more workplaces are recognizing the benefits of connected lighting. We're doing it ourselves here at Comfy HQ, where we integrated Current by GE's Daintree system with Comfy to gather actionable data and create an optimal workplace experience.
5. Open Data Platform
CTO and Co-founder Stephen Dawson-Haggerty often challenges us with the statement that today's "workplace experience is broken and fragmented—and for no good reason." Yes, individually, digital lighting controls and building management systems help workplaces by modulating energy use and providing useful data. However, there's something the two technologies historically do not do very well: talk to each other.
The new wave of IoT has shown that connectivity can be applied to legacy systems such as lighting controls and building management systems. This is exciting because when the existing physical and digital systems running behind the scenes finally connect with each other (and with workplace technology like Comfy), workplace teams and employees can experience a whole new realm of possibilities that elevate their work lives. What's more, there's a growing trend to make this connectivity "open," non-proprietary, and API-addressable.
At Comfy, we're especially excited that leading lighting companies like Cree, Current by GE, and Lutron have embraced an open-protocol approach, because open, standardized protocols lead to a greater number of compatible solutions, easier implementation, and faster scalability. Put simply: the widespread adoption of an open-protocol approach allows the industry to more quickly make the intelligent workplace experience a reality for more people.
Advances in human-centric lighting, power over ethernet, individualized control, connected lighting, and an open-protocol data platform puts us all one step closer to creating better workplaces everywhere.
Every building is unique. Learn more about how the Works with Comfy partner ecosystem can help you get the most out of your existing lighting system.