Tech: LEDs… Let There Be Light!

March 25, 2014
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Thanks to the development of LED lamp technology, the lowly light bulb is doing more than turning on and off. Looking into the not-so-distant-future the lamp will likely be the centerpiece of an environment created with a view toward improving one’s health, regulating mood and improving our daily food. This newest generation of LEDs can create light in multiple, subtle colors, while generating much less heat and using up only a fraction of the energy of older types of bulbs. Better yet, LEDs can be controlled remotely from a PC or smartphone app, in as simple programmable a manner as we record programs off a television.

Health-wise, the LED manufacturing process means that the technology shifts light toward the blue end of the spectrum, whether the LED format is used in TV, tablet or light bulb displays. Meanwhile, blue light has its advantages because blue stimulates a photoreceptor in the eye that naturally reduces melatonin, helping keep the subject awake without artificial stimulation


“The best way to think about it,” says the beautiful Ms. Chu, representing the American Lighting Assocation at the neo-gadget part of the Housewares Show at McCormick Place in Chicago on March 14 through the 17th, 2014, “is like a very potent drug.” She was showing me very convincingly how a simple lamp can be designed to use Bluetooth connectivity and controlled from a smartphone, allowing the user to change colors, dim the bulb and synchronize lighting effects to the rhythm of any song of choice played on the phone.

Which leads me to Lighting Science, an LED manufacturer who sells the Awake and Alert, an LED lamp that effectively keeps people amped up and energized by simply pumping up the blue in slow-release increments. The blue light stimulates a photoreceptor in the eye that reduces melatonin production and helps a person stay awake.


Conversely, the company’s Good Night lighting product gently reduces the blue output, helping people ease gently into sleep. This summer, Lighting Science will offer its new Rhythm Downlight, a lamp controlled by a smartphone app that adjusts blue light based on a user’s programmed sleep schedule. This system, although it doesn’t seem to alter the amount of light received by natural vision, alters our innate sense of circadian vision.

Lighting Science is small fry compared to the electronics giant from the Netherlands, Philips Electronics, which sells its own range of energy-enhancing lights, including its Wake-up Light, manufactured to combat winter blue.

Meanwhile back in Europe, at head-office in Eindhoven, Philips is experimenting with its HealWell system in hospitals. Its lighting system changes colors according to the time of day, and nurses receive due warning from their smartphones as to when it’s appropriate to wake up their patient so that they’ll feel more relaxed and sleep more easily.  And, according to an article in Crain’s Chicago Business, a field study held at the Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands, cardiology patients were found to sleep longer, have their blood pressure much reduced and experience reduced depression as a result.

On the other hand, Philips’s Hue system allows users to program their own lighting moods and then send those instructions to special lamps via a smartphone app. The lights can also be programmed to respond to specific events, such as by glowing a prescribed color when it is time to, say, remove the roast from the oven. Philips has even designed lighting systems which decrease growing times and increase yield for greenhouse vegetables and flowers, via use of the light’s specific hues. Tomato and vegetable growers in Holland and Canada use Philips’s LEDs to improve bulk, to increase fruit growth and to reduce vegetable maturation time while reducing energy costs.

In the United States, Lighting Science is working hard on beating Philips to the punch with similar systems by the end of 2014. Additionally, the notion of building solariums for all American hospitals because they have been shown to improve recovery time is in the air. Makes you think that the future’s so bright that you don’t need rose-colored glasses, but blue ones.

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