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Riffing The Internet of Things


LUX Review webinar 06.jan.16:
The Internet of Things and Lighting



I’ve been sniffy on the subject of the Internet of Things (IoT) before and the jury is still out on how this connective/communicative technology will ultimately benefit of lives – and I’m still at a loss to understand how the ability to use my mobile to switch on a kettle will EVER be a good thing.

But one thing is certain, IoT is surely headed our way and we really need to start thinking about the ways that this can work. And not just work in the literal sense of the word, but WORK in a way that really serves our needs in a practical, caring, kind of way.

The idea that we can ask a lighting fixture to do stuff remotely is not new; we’ve been remote switching since the introduction of electricity. Wireless control has become a sensible way to connect between remote fixtures and control points where hard-wiring is too awkward, and we can do far more than just alter light output; we can instruct mechanical devices wthin spotlights to alter their beam characteristics, change colour ouputs, link a row of spotlights to work in concert, and even physically move the focus of spotlights from one object onto another.

But there is a commonality to everything that we’ve been able to do thus far – the fixture remains dumb. It does what its told, but offers us no information in return. IoT changes that fundamental situation; it doesn’t make the light fixture any cleverer – it ain’t smart, so let’s be careful how we use that weasel word, but it can make us smarter, those of us who wish to know more about what’s going on in the fixture, and that’s no bad thing.

When we first switched from electric typewriters to computers we just saw a more clever way of writing letters; the computer being little more than a fancy word processing machine. It took many iterations for us to realise where else the tech could take us . . . though, while watching the LUXLive debate webinar on my monitor (available on demand – see below), I’m still tapping away at a keyboard on an adjacent screen to produce this blog.
Some things change – other things stay the same.

So: looking at the world from where we sit today, what’s of interest to me?

  1. Fixture information feedback:
    I’d like an LED fixture to be able to tell us how many hours its been in operation. I’d like to know how its internal components are functioning. At root, I’d like the fixture to tell me who made it, where it came from and when.
  2. Presence detection:
    If there’s no one in a room, we don’t need any light, so an interface between fixture and presence detection is useful. And here’s the thing; if there’s someone in my home when no one should be there, I’d like someone to tell me about it, even if that someone is a light fixture.
  3. Light and Art:
    And I don’t see why we shouldn’t have some fun with this; my computer invites me to play Patience, so why shouldn’t a lighting installation be interactive in our leisure time? Do I have any idea, what this means . . . well, I’d refer you back to the old Windows Media Player psychotropic screen savers. I had no idea what they were doing, but some of it was fun.

And finally – for now – what I don’t want is the kind of reductive offering that only looks backwards. I don’t want an IoT-connected fridge that contacts the supermarket when I run low on foodstuffs because that nostalgic approach can only offer me what I’ve had before – not what I want next. And I don’t want a lighting installation analyzing my actions when I get home from work and deciding that the light setting I created yesterday – or on this same day last week – is what I want today. My thought processes are far more complex than that, so I’ll make those decisions, thank you very much.

One thing I’d like to pick up from the LUXLive debate (part of the webinar) is the way that some of this thinking is fundamentally adolescent – or selfish, if you will. If a hundred people share a space, that’s one hundred individuals who each see the world in their own personal way, so where does personal and shared space begin and end? What madness is it to believe that we can each control our personal environment without inflicting our choices on someone else. This is a potential route for chaos and carnage, so there is a real need to understand the social aspect of IoT and how we learn to manage the overt individuation that IoT brings with the necessity of sharing our space with our neighbours.


To view the webinar click:
LUX Review webinar 06.jan.16: The Internet of Things and Lighting


For more information on upcoming webinars at LUX Review, please click on the graphic:

RIBA CPD in 2015

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John Bullock Lighting Design
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