Did anyone spot the moment when lighting went completely crazy?

If you'd told someone from five or 10 years ago what the latest lighting innovations of 2015 are capable of, would they have believed you? | Image: Shutterstock

Looking back, it’s hard to pinpoint just when it was that the lighting world went completely bonkers.

If you’d said a few years ago that your lights could be controlled remotely from a mobile phone, or could track people around a shop, or could sense demand on the electricity grid and switch to battery power automatically, you’d have been burned as a witch.

But now all these things are happening, and plenty more besides.

Of course, ever since LEDs appeared, the lighting business has gone a little crazy – startling new product designs; energy savings of 70, 80, 90 per cent; tiny form factors; tuneable colour… But the latest changes in lighting take things to a whole new level: companies are now bringing connectivity, sensing and intelligence into LED products.

It’s all part of the emerging ‘internet of things’ (IoT), in which all sorts of everyday devices, including lights, are connected to the internet. Companies are even making LED light modules with sensors, microchips and connectivity built in. Don’t miss our piece on nine cool things lights can do thanks to the IoT – and if you’re baffled by it all, head first to our handy jargonbuster.

What’s exciting about this isn’t just that it will make our lights more efficient and more useful, but also that the light fittings in our ceilings could become the backbone of a network of sensors and cameras that will make our buildings smarter and safer.

Other recent innovations that are set to turn the industry on its head include the graphene LED bulb, lights powered over Ethernet, and location systems based on visible light communication. New technology is influencing the business models behind lighting too – as we’re seeing with pay-as-you-go lighting deals in the Netherlands and France.

In fact, when covering developments in lighting technology for Lux, there are moments when I wonder if I’m writing for a lighting magazine at all, or something more.

Because light is just one of the things that today’s lighting products can do.