May 2018

It may be disturbing, even uncanny that we hardly notice how drastically AI systems are changing the world that surrounds us. We remain rather unaware of this technological takeover is because AI is almost unnoticeably nesting itself at the core of our lives through the way we all embrace its automated services and personalized assistance. We remain ignorant to how instantaneously and smoothly we get hooked up to this kind of comfort. All branches of the industry are nowadays busy with developing strategies towards the integration of self-learning systems within their field of expertise. So is the lighting industry.

In a publicly published research paper, the international lighting intelligence company founded in Finland, Helvar is giving a fine testimony on how AI is becoming a game-changer in the lighting industry. Let this be the perfect excuse for Damn° Magazine to find out from the two authors Lars Hellström and Henri Juslén what they consider to be the thrills and risks of AI in the lighting business.

DAMN: In the first sentence of your paper, you immediately mention that the lighting industry has been slow to adopt AI technology. How comes?

HELVAR: We only recently have been going through a complete transformation with the development of LED technology and the implementation of wireless solutions. We simply weren’t focused on AI. As a consequence, lighting engineers and designers have never been triggered to develop systems and tools that have the capability to learn. We now start to notice a significant change, as more and more sensors collecting data are being installed in buildings. We are ready to relate to all this data that is stored in cloud-based datacentres and to develop lighting systems that can automatically observe, learn and adapt themselves to a wide variety of areas, situations or configurations. Ultimately we want to develop an artificial intelligent lighting infrastructure that can serve as the backbone of intelligent buildings.

DAMN: Do we need this new technology in lighting and are your customers ready for this change?

HELVAR: It is true that people are still rather reluctant to embrace the potential. This can partly be explained because they don’t know yet what the potential is or that they are afraid that they aren’t trained well enough to use such systems. The way light is still designed and operated by simple off/on switches also forms another major obstacle. The advantages of these switch controls are evident, they are easy to design, to operate, you don’t need a lot of knowledge to adjust them and it is rather low cost. These challenges are the parameters that we have to take into account in order to enhance a better understanding of the benefits of self-learning lighting systems. They have to be easier to be designed, to be intuitive to use and intelligent enough to work automatically within constantly changing configurations. The main thing is that the long-term total cost of ownership has to become lower than the current systems through the optimization of energy consumption and a significant reduction of maintenance care.

DAMN: You mentioned that AI lighting systems should become the potential backbone of an intelligent building. How do we have to imagine this?

HELVAR: This comes from the fact that lighting is installed everywhere in a building. So it looks that this infrastructure is the perfect place to install some intelligence. Artificial intelligence is fed through analysing data obtained from sensors, which also need to be installed throughout the building. So why not combing both features? Also from a logical position it makes sense to use light as an “eye”, observing and collecting data on behaviours and changing configurations. In this way, AI lighting systems will not only be able to improve lighting conditions, but it will be of benefit for the totality of the building environments, increasing the wellbeing of every building’s user.

DAMN: What will the impact consist of for an end-user within an intelligent building, how will this make them feel better?

HELVAR: As you know, every human being is a bit different, but up till now, we all had to deal with rather generic lighting conditions that never truly were adaptable to one’s specific needs. With an AI lighting system that is able to incorporate more data like age, activity, time of the day and even personal preferences, needs and mood constellations, the more individualized and optimized light will be at your service. Light will most probably be able to adjust itself automatically not only to physiological or contextual differences, but also to taste differences. The automated capability to mix general and personal conditions in order to optimize lighting conditions for each individual is definitely a path that is worthwhile to explore.

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