Integrating Lighting Into Our Connected World

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Thanks to industry developments, we now have a wide range of lighting systems at our fingertips. In particular, the tiny size of systems such as LEDs and OLEDs allow the designer to put light wherever it is really needed and simply leave it out where it is unnecessary.

This minuscule module should help to prevent the common trap many poorly designed workspaces fall into—uniform lighting.

OLED round and white

Well-placed fixtures can provide great ambient light for a general space, while brighter task lighting should be individually customized at each workstation.

Yes, this is a very important concept to remember when lighting a space. But there are several examples of designs that have moved beyond this basic necessity for well-designed, non-uniform lighting.

In short, these professionals have developed lighting systems that do so much more than simply allow us to see.

OLED Production


A World of Integration

Our cell phones and our cameras are now one and the same. Our documents are now accessible to us anywhere and everywhere in the world. And now we see these lighting innovators using their medium to take on that challenge of integration.

Not only do some of these extraordinary lighting products give us something to see by, we can now use them in the workplace to advertise, decorate our walls, make our furniture more useful, and soon even send information.

OLED Lumiblade Living Shapes

One such example is the Lumiblade, produced by Philips. This system comprises 2 mm thick OLED panels made up of 16 5 x 5.5 cm programmable OLEDs. These panels can be arranged in just about any configuration—by themselves, side-by-side, even on top of one another.

In general, the idea is that one can place several of these panels around each other and in doing so provide a diffuse glow that can illuminate an entire surface. The panels can be programmed to provide a number of functions. Of course they can be programmed to display text or different colors but the thing I found most interest was its capability to be integrated with motion sensing technology.

OLED Lumiblade Living Shapes

For example, one product by Phillips using the Lumiblade is entitled the Mirrowall. The idea behind the product is, “You fade the light.” The panels in Mirrowall are programmed to mirror your movements as you step in front of it. The panels directly in front of you will switch off creating a silhouette of your motions.

I mean, seriously, think of the possibilities here.

Of course you could use this as a fun, interactive lighting system that would provide a gentle ambient light to spaces like hallways or open offices. But what I really think is the truly amazing application of Lumiblade is its branding potential in workspaces.

Now, instead of having a television in the lobby displaying information about your company you can have a fully integrated interactive wall comprised of these OLED panels that would display information, your logo—and of course, creating a gentle calming glow for the space that your clients can interact and play with. Not only have you lit a space, you’ve provided information and advertising for your company, and you’ve entertained a client. Congratulations!

As I previously mentioned, thanks to the small module of LEDs and OLEDs we can now place lights precisely where we need them.

OLED rectangle and white

Instead of suspending lights from the ceiling, we can lay flat panels like the ones I previously mentioned pretty much anywhere. And instead of struggling with super hot high intensity desk lamps in our task lighting we can lay LEDs exactly where we want them—including in our actual furniture.

This can be as simple as laying a strip of LEDs along shelves and bookcases to shine direct light on book and magazine titles.

A great example of this can be found in the Amsterdam Public Library. There, strips of LEDs lay along the undersides and sides of bookcases to provide direct gentle light to illuminate the titles of books and magazines.

What’s great about this strategy is that the light doesn’t carry. It stays exactly where you want it to.

Mimosa by Jason Bruges

So, for example, lighting a bookcase adjacent or near the computer screen in your workspace won’t result in a noticeable amount of residual glare. Instead, it will simply perform the function it was intended to do and result in a bookcase that does double-duty—it not only holds your books, it lights them as well.

Mimosa by Jason Bruges

Another up and coming integrated product using OLEDs that I’m very excited about is the LOMOX OLED wallpaper debuting in 2012. This product utilizes LOMOX’s patented OLED film to provide a diffuse light through various wallpaper designs. And supposedly the wallpaper is very energy efficient, even when compared to the compact fluorescent bulb.

I can definitely see some real applications for more products like this one in providing ambient light for workspaces. No longer will you have to suffer under the haze of fluorescent ceiling lamps. Instead you can enjoy a soft light emitting from beautifully designed glowing wallpaper.  Sounds good to me.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with a cutting-edge concept that I think is going to transform the way we work and the way we live.

Light that doesn’t just provide light—but actually carries information, much like a wireless network. Crazy, right? It’s called SIM OFDM.

This technology enables light sources such as an LED to transmit data—and not just in a single stream, thousands of data streams at the same time at even higher speeds than we’ve seen before.

Harald Haas, an engineering professor at Edinburgh University and the brains behind SIM OFDM, gave a great lecture about this technology during a TED talk filmed this past summer.


In the video he gives a demonstration using an LED light bulb connected to their signal processing technology. The light is directed at a small hole where a receiver picks it up and converts subtle changes that the LED creates into an electrical signal. Then that signal is transformed into the aforementioned high-speed data stream.

In this demonstration, the data stream is carrying a high definition video that is then projected onto a screen behind Haas.

In his lecture, Hass goes on to discuss a number of applications he sees for SIM OFDM, such as car headlights that “talk” to each other to prevent crashes, open “Li-Fi” (light-fidelity) networks available at every streetlamp, and the fact that light would be a safer stream by which to transmit data as it can’t travel through opaque walls.

Think of the potential here for the workplace. Someone could literally walk into their workspace, flip a light switch and all of their mobile and computing devices in the space would be able to transmit data to one another.

This of course opens up a whole realm of possibilities but I think the most important one to me is that those data transfers would be inaccessible to anyone outside the limits of the light in that space, and thereby safe.

O’Leaf by Modular

Sadly, this technology isn’t available right now, but it’s definitely something I would keep my eye on. Haas has achieved a level of integration that may one day change our world.


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