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25 things we’ve learned about light in 2014

A boring year it was not; 2014 saw the actual manifestation of smart lighting in shops, airports and streets, heated arguments about streetlight switch-offs, breathtaking innovations and a Nobel prize for physics. So as the holiday season approaches, we bring you 25 things you’ll remember about 2014.


1        Love won’t keep streetlights switched off

Although UK community secretary Eric Pickles professed his love of the streetlight switch-off that helped him sleep in Essex, the lights went back on after only a week. After a string of burglaries, the police ordered the lights switched back on ‘as a preventative measure’. They clearly didn’t agree with Pickles’ theory that dark streets ‘deter criminals’.


2       The lights are watching you now

It’s been coming for a while, but now the sensor-style lights that some in the media dubbed ‘Big Brother lights’ are in action. If you lurk about in the car park under Terminal 2 in Newark Airport in the US trying to open all the cars, the lights will snitch on you to the facilities manager.


3       The Queen is keen on LED

Her Majesty is trialling two LED lamps from Zeta Specialist Lighting in a quest to find the perfect illumination for her private quarters. Zeta’s managing director, Phil Shadbolt, showed the firm’s Life Bulb to the Queen at a product demonstration event held at the palace in June.




4       LEDs are a gift to mankind

The potential of LED technology was finally recognised with a Nobel prize for Physics, awarded to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura for the invention of the blue LED, which ‘triggered a fundamental transformation of lighting technology’ and ‘enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources’. The inventor of red LED was a little miffed, though.


5        Lighting could become the ‘grid’ on which smart city tech is built

Lighting is still among the top contenders to become the basis of the smart city management systems of the future. The interest shown by municipalities and lighting manufacturers all over Europe in the opening of the Danish Outdoor Lighting Lab (Doll) suggests that smart luminaire development is a field that will attract a lot of interest and investment in the coming years.



6       Smart lighting is coming, but not necessarily from a lighting company

Google has bought Nest, and Apple is positioning itself with its own HomeKit system; the established lighting giants have no reason to be complacent about their role in the future smart homes and cities.


7        The light switch might go the way of the dinosaurs

Future houses might not even be equipped with light switches, if lighting designer Dominick Meyrick’s prediction is to be believed. ‘A switch on the wall is there because technology required it. As our technology moves forward, the switch will die – it’s inevitable,’ he said. But his view faced opposition at LuxLive, where the boffins reignited the battle. Perhaps round three will settle the matter at next year’s Lighting Fixture Design Conference?


8       There is room for policy improvement

The government backed the UK Lighting Sector Strategy produced by the LIA and the department for Business, Innovation and Skills – but stopped short of backing efficiency targets for public sector buildings. The Tories also proposed to exempt 100,000 new homes for first-time-buyers from meeting the zero-carbon standard. Meh.



9       The skylight is not the limit

Or rather, the skylight no longer appears to be the limit; CoeLux, a new type of artificial skylight made by Italian scientist Paolo Di Trapani, looks like real sunlight. It recreates Rayleigh scattering, the physical phenomenon that makes the sky look blue, and could completely transform the look and feel of basement homes in crowded cities.



10      Lighting companies face an interesting future

Philips’ lighting division prepared for independence, Samsung left the LED luminaire market and GE’s chief marketing officer Beth Comstock insisted GE’s lighting division was ‘not for sale’. What’s certain is that another year packed with change and innovation lies ahead, and Lux’s website will be the place to learn everything new about lighting in 2015.


11      LEDs and conservation go hand in hand

The paintings in the Sistine Chapel became easier to see this autumn thanks to 7,000 LEDs, but it wasn’t easy to get the project approved. According to Martin Reuter, senior technical project manager at Osram, the hardest part was ‘to prove that the light was not harmful for the art’. So Osram did not use phosphor-coated blue LEDs, but instead used of a mixture of blue, red and green sources that had been tested on original pigments on the ceiling for a year.



12      Laser diodes are the future

At least according to the Nobel Prize-winning inventor of the blue LED, Shuji Nakamura, whose company Soraa is currently perfecting laser technology that will massively improve efficiency compared with LED sources. Laser diodes are already used in two newly launched cars from BMW and Audi respectively, but Nakamura insists there is still some way to go, telling Lux: ‘We still have to work very hard to make the laser diodes highly efficient.’


13      The best control system is one that works

There was certainly no blackout at the National Grid when this picture was taken on a Wednesday evening at 7.30pm. The Grid says each office has an occupation sensor that turns lights off when nobody’s there, so either the entire building was staffed by exceptionally keen workers doing overtime – or it’s time for controls manufacturers to start pitching their wares.


14      UK companies sell like hotcakes

In one month, Japan’s Endo snapped up Warrington-based family-run Ansell for £35 million and Sweden’s Itab bought Hertfordshire-based Profile Lighting. Not long before that, Canadian company Lumenpulse had picked up the UK’s Projection Lighting in a deal worth £16.6 million. Now, who wants to buy Lux? Too late, US-based publishing house PennWell already has.


15      Blue LEDs might make us less blue

Network Rail has taken inspiration from Japan and China where blue light on train platforms appears to have reduced suicides, crime and littering. Bright blue LED floodlights have been installed at Gatwick Airport station in the hope that we can copy the success. As Terry Denyer, a senior asset engineer for Network Rail, says: ‘If it stops one incident, then brilliant.’



16      Art depends on light

Even invisible changes in colour temperature can change the way in which we perceive art, an experiment at the National Gallery has revealed. Under neutral light, the above fruit was perceived to be yellow. Tweaking the colour spectrum of the light slightly toward red made visitors say the fruit was orange. Further research will be revealed in 2015.


17      LEDs make juicy produce

Lighting manufacturers and agricultural researchers are making strides in the field of light farming. Not only can LED sources reduce the energy used and heat generated in greenhouses, the flexibility of colour temperature can increase plant yield and make crops richer in vitamin C.




18      You can fool a smart meter

With a bit of dexterity and technical savvy, you can hack your smart meter to lower your apparent energy use or even get someone else to pay for your electricity. Or rather, a security company managed to hack a light meter widely used in Spain after reverse engineering it, peeling back firmware to expose encryption keys and deconstructing the utility’s communication network. It was ‘easy’, apparently.


19      Lamps and luminaires will be one

Lampinaire? Lump? Whatever the integrated lighting devices of the near future will be called, lamp manufacturers are sure of one thing: the future is fixtures. That comes in handy now that LED lamps will last forever and reduce demand for new lamps. As Fred Bass of Neonlite, the company behind Megaman, said: ‘Sources are increasingly sold with fixtures, and the traditional divisions in the lighting industry will start to disappear as we all have to supply fixtures, lamps and control solutions.’


20     OLEDs will become cheaper than Tesco lamps

Researchers are tinkering away in expensively-equipped labs to produce OLEDs that will one day become cheaper than LEDs, according to Professor Poopathy Kathirgamanathan of Brunel University. He said: ‘If you can produce a 77-inch OLED TV display, you can also produce a 77-inch OLED lighting panel – at a much lower price.’ If the scale of production reaches one million square metres of OLED panels, it will be possible to sell OLEDs for less than the lamps you buy at Tesco, Kathirgamanathan insists.


21      Light is a drug

The right light at the right time can stabilise hormonal rhythms, enhance night-time melatonin secretion, improve sleep quality, increase day-time vigilance and raise our resilience to stress, according to Professor Herbert Plischke of Munich University. Like any responsible medical professional, Plischke wants the lighting industry to administer the correct dose of the right light to ensure that users get healthier.



22     Financing exists, but confidence doesn’t

According to a senior NHS figure, there are plenty of loans available to the healthcare sector for energy-efficient lighting upgrades; decision-makers just don’t feel reassured that there isn’t a catch, and the NHS doesn’t have the resources to look into all the available options. So they’re letting old lamps burn instead.


23     Women are gaining recognition in the industry

We all know that most events in the lighting industry look like a documentary on penguins in the arctic; lots of black and white suits. But times are changing and this year three women gain presidential posts in lighting industry bodies. Lux columnist Liz Peck won the presidential elections at SLL, Elisabeth Thomas of Walsall Council became president elect of the ILP and Adele Locke [pictured] was elected national president of the Illuminating Engineering Society of Australia and New Zealand (IESANZ).


24     Naughty Europeans hold on to halogen

We thought people on the Continent were buying environment-friendly CFLs, but we were wrong; it turns out halogen lamps are being used as the main replacement for incandescents in Europe. A group of angry governments and campaigners are now imploring the European Commission to drop its proposed delay on banning halogens.


25     Celebs are tapping in to the lighting market

Lights, lights baby…. Is the actual name of a lighting range launched by – you guessed it – rapper and businessman Vanilla Ice. American ex-con and TV personality Martha Stewart, and outspoken interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, also have their own lighting ranges.