Where will the next big platform for innovation come from?

In a world turning digital at speed, entire industries are regularly disrupted and totally reinvented. Faced with such rapid evolution, it’s easy to get caught up in industry hype around the latest technological breakthroughs – but where will the next rich vein of innovation in our work environments actually be unearthed?

Typically, improvements in process, increased productivity and enhanced efficiency define innovation – even more so for businesses. Light and lighting meets all of these requirements. You rarely give a thought to the ubiquitous fittings which have the power to unlock significant benefits from efficiency through to enhancing productivity and even enabling the Internet of Things.

If nothing else, the sheer ubiquity of light sources makes lighting a terrific platform for innovation. In the planning stages, lighting is one of the first considerations –inefficient lighting is one of the biggest energy expenditures and a cause of greenhouse gas emissions globally. With the UK Government’s 2050 net zero greenhouse gas emissions proposal, the pressure on businesses to make their operations greener is even greater.

Believe it or not, simply upgrading to energy-efficient LED lighting can unlock significant budget by drastically reducing energy usage and expenditure. Adding smart sensors and controls to LED lighting through a management system such as Interact Office compounds those savings and creates an intelligent network of sensors across your building. A modern office building with efficient, smart connected lighting can save up to 80% on energy – significant savings that unlock revenue. However, energy savings are only part of the equation.

With centralised lighting and sensors the potential for productivity and energy efficiency are unlocked

LED luminaires with integrated sensors can collect data on lighting performance and sense the environment around them. For example, they can collect anonymised data that provide insights as to how workers use the workplace. Everything – from heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), to cleaning and space usage – can be monitored and made more efficient. As a result, energy usage and costs can be reduced while and boosting productivity.

One example of how innovation will boost employee and office productivity is in the occupancy estimates.  Recent studies indicate that 25-50% of office desks in buildings are vacant on any given day. Interact Offices’ space management helps to understand occupancy rates across buildings, floors, meeting rooms or even at desk-level by counting people and analysing the number of workers in a given space. Through accurate reporting on historic and real-time space usage, organisations can assess and optimise space requirements and workplace designs easily.

Furthermore, using indoor positioning technology, employees can use software apps on their smartphones to book meeting rooms and navigate within the office. They can use their smartphones to personalise lighting around their workstation, further improving their productivity and employee engagement. Even better, this is all possible without any disruption beyond the addition of a connected light fixture which can be easily fitted retrospectively.

Also, offices (and other buildings) can benefit from enhanced connectivity through their lighting. This is particularly relevant in areas that are sensitive to radio frequencies, such as hospitals, clinics and, factories– or areas with poor or no wireless radio communication. Light Fidelity, or LiFi, creates a stable and fast broadband data connection through light waves. By modulating light, at a frequency imperceptible to the human eye, we can create a fast-two-way broadband connection of 30Mb/s.

Light cannot penetrate walls like other wireless communication systems. To connect to LiFi you need your device to be in the pool of light created by the LED luminaire and to have a personalized USB access key. LiFi offers an extra layer of security, further enhanced by the selective authorisation of USB access keys.

You might be surprised to learn that the energy savings from LiFi, alongside further efficiencies unlocked through data insights collected by smart sensors and additional revenue opportunities mean heavily reduced operating costs. The upfront investment cost is quickly offset and can even be avoided entirely through innovative business models, such as Lighting as a Service – where you pay for just the light, not the hardware. Leveraging lighting as a connectivity source and platform for Internet of Things applications also reduces the cost of infrastructure. This is particularly the case for new builds, whereas new wireless options are available for existing buildings – avoiding costly refit or expensive building work.

I’d argue it’s a no brainer, but then I might be biased. A lot has changed since the invention of the humble lightbulb in 1878, I’d argue it’s time we rethink our relationship with light to create the next generation of smart spaces and unlock this exciting new platform for innovation.

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