‘Mad Max’ lighting industry needs to add value

A LED ceiling panel offered for sale at the Hong Kong Lighting Show. The lighting industry has put too much emphasis on selling luminaires at the lowest price when it should be considering how it add value to society, believes Mark Rea.

ONE OF the world’s top lighting scientists says the lighting industry has become like the dystopian film ‘Mad Max’ with manufacturers trying to sell luminaires at the lowest price when it should be considering how it adds value to society.

Mark Rea helped to develop a specific recipe to allow the industry to begin installing human-centric lighting in workplaces, schools and other facilities.He believes the lighting industry needs to stop talking to itself and form relationships with other sectors.

Dr Mark Rea, professor of architecture and cognitive sciences and a highly respected figure at the Lighting Research Centre in New York, also echoed previous criticisms of the sector that it has become too inward-looking.

The only way forward is for the insular lighting community to form new collaborations with those outside our limited circle, and to stop ‘talking to ourselves’ otherwise lighting will become ‘just a commodity’.

Reviewing the year at the LRC Summit, Rea said: ’Today, there are two basic business models for lighting, one trying to serve the existing, well-established lighting standards at the lowest price, and the other trying to leverage existing lighting infrastructure to insert digital communications and artificial intelligence into the built environment.

‘I believe it is worth considering a third model, one that is less about technology push or cheaply serving existing standards and infrastructure and is more about delivering benefits to society.

‘Value creation for this third business model is still unclear, but one thing does seem clear, if this third business model is to create greater value for society, it cannot do so alone.

‘We must reframe this business model by forming non-traditional partnerships with government agencies, NGOs and academia to collectively advance the effective use of lighting for society and the environment.’

Rea’s challenge to lighting manufacturers was echoed by his LRC colleague Dr. Mariana Figueiro, another expert in human-centric lighting.

Figueiro believes that many spaces such as schools, offices and nursing homes are dimly lighted which can lead to negative impacts on health ranging from insomnia to depression to increased risk of certain types of cancer.

Figueiro’s research has shown that a specific amount, timing, duration, and distribution of light can significantly improve sleep, mood, and general wellbeing for newborns in hospitals, students in schools, office workers, and older adults, including those living with Alzheimer’s disease.

She also presented LRC studies showing how light can reduce depression and fatigue in cancer patients and support alertness in night-shift nurses.

Figueiro asked the audience: ‘how can we, as an industry, use the research to make people’s lives better?’

Govi Rao, co-founder and managing partner of Carbon Group Global and champion of sustainability, said: ‘As responsible leaders seeking to guide this revolution toward a future that reflects our common objectives and values, we are working to develop a comprehensive and globally shared view of how light and lighting technologies are affecting our lives and reshaping our economic, social, cultural, and human environments’.