Anthony Parkinson of Ansell Lighting explores the impact Covid-19 will have on lighting use in businesses and the role smart lighting can play in helping to ensure it remains efficient and cost effective.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about many changes to the way we live our lives. Some temporary, such as lockdowns and the requirement to wear facial coverings, whilst others are more permanent, such as the shift towards more flexible working practices.
Indeed, in many industries, it is felt that the ‘new normal’ will involve a greater proportion of employees splitting their time between working from home and from the workplace, and it is believed to be unlikely, at least in the short-term, that staff will return to the office full-time.
Whilst this change is set to pose many advantages for individuals and organisations alike, this flexible approach will also open up a wave of new challenges for businesses to address. Not least when it comes to lighting use and minimising the potential for unnecessary energy consumption and waste.
With regimented office working practices out of the window, there is real potential that businesses will use energy unnecessarily, resulting in unwarranted expenditure and negatively impacting the environment. But there is a quick and easy solution to this potential challenge – smart lighting.
Using automation to ensure that lighting is only used where and when it is needed, smart lighting is the perfect solution for workplaces that are being used sporadically or where lighting requirements change regularly and according to the movement of its users.
It is an energy efficient, cost-effective solution that allows users to optimise lighting use, giving complete control over when lights are on or off or set to specific scenes or temperatures. It eliminates the reliance on human intervention, reducing the risk of users accidentally leaving the lights on and wasting energy and what’s more, is ideal for use in almost any indoor or outdoor setting from offices and industrial spaces to car parks and external pathways. It can also help to influence mood and wellbeing, improve safety and security and heighten productivity in the workplace.
As with all technologies, there are many different smart lighting products and systems available in the marketplace, offering different levels of automation, customisation and interoperability. In fact, perhaps one of the most appealing features of smart lighting is that the installation of an entirely new system isn’t warranted to reap its benefits. Products such as smart bulbs or smart LED strip lighting can be easily installed alongside traditional lighting elements to update existing schemes and can be programmed to operate at specific times to maximise energy efficiency.
For maximum benefit though, a fully connected workplace is the way forward and offers optimum control. Linking together numerous products will enable different scenes, groups and schedules to be created — all of which can be controlled either remotely, programmed to respond to voice or motion or via eco systems such as Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.
Smart lighting products with corridor functionality or intuitive presence and absence detection sensors are another brilliant solution to consider for today’s workplaces. They reduce energy consumption by ensuring that lights are only in use when needed or where lighting is required 24/7, they can also be used to control output, increasing to 100% only when presence is detected ensuring energy for full illumination is only used when required.
Other products such as smart technology-enabled daylight harvesting systems are another great energy saving option for today’s workplaces as they maximise the availability of natural lighting and regulate energy use. They allow buildings to reduce the need for electric lighting during periods of high-level daylight, increasing only when illumination levels become reduced or non-existent.
No matter which approach to smart lighting is taken, for installers, perhaps the most attractive feature of smart lighting systems is that they are quick and easy to install. Most systems are controlled and hosted on the cloud, so there is no hub or wiring to fit and many of the units are simply installed like a normal light bulb or switch – making it very easy to retrofit into existing buildings.