Philips says that the way we work is changing, and lighting will play a big part in that change
The traditional work environment is undergoing rapid change. Flexibility is the new theme in offices, and it has many implications — on design, on the management of building services, on employees’ working habits and working hours, on personal control of the office environment and on work/life balance.
Already we are seeing office designs that are much more agile and adaptable, with different kinds of spaces for collaboration, brainstorming and solo work. Following a service model, the office of the future will adjust to changing teams, needs, topics, and tasks, rather than providing fixed, single-purpose physical spaces.
Technology is having a big influence too. The shift from analogue to digital has completely changed our world over the last 30 years. We now walk round with smartphones in our pockets containing more computing power than that which helped Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969. Supported by powerful connectivity, the “internet of things” is driving new ways to collaborate, innovate and socialise.
Yet the modern office also presents many challenges. Around 33% of all meetings are unplanned and finding a space to get together quickly can be difficult. Yet 20% of meeting rooms are booked but never used. The result is that 70% of workers today say they are wasting 15 minutes a day trying to find a room whilst 24% are wasting half an hour a day trying to find a space to meet and collaborate. The consequence is that 2.2% of their time is wasted in this way, raising the question are we productive in the modern office? Can the building itself help provide a solution? The benefit of a smart building is that it advises you. Helping you find a meeting room based on proximity, providing indoor navigation to direct you to an available meeting room and automatically confirming the meeting room when you walk in.
So what does this have to do with lighting? Every building has lighting, the majority with a fixed grid and at high granularity, on average at least every 5m2 or 50sqft. It is also possible to not only control light but communicate with. In a connected lighting system, luminaires and other lighting system devices merge with IT networks to allow for the collection, distribution, and storage of large amounts of data. Information collected through a connected lighting system’s high-bandwidth network affords deeper insight into building usage and greater control over the distribution and consumption of resources. Building owners and managers can realise enhanced value and savings from optimising lighting and other building verticals, such as HVAC. The workplace of the future will rely on such data to make all big decisions and lighting will be a digital ceiling infrastructure, acting as a pathway for information and data.
To unlock the potential strategic partnerships between technology companies are crucial. These partnerships will deliver previously unthinkable value by using lighting as the backbone of smart cities, offices and homes; reimagining our relationship with light.
Such partnerships and ‘smart’ offices are already beginning to materialise. Waterpark Place, the Canadian headquarters of Cisco in Toronto is a great example of this. Demonstrating how dynamic office spaces can become smarter and more energy efficient than ever before, the connected lighting system used in Toronto integrates seamlessly with the IT systems in the building.
Cisco’s ambition was for a lighting solution for their four-story office that would match its modern and intelligent workspace, optimising building performance and creating an inviting environment for employees. Some 1,400 luminaires in the building are connected using Power over Ethernet which enables them to gather data that can change the user experience and the energy usage of the buildings in ways that were not previously possible. This means that lighting and the HVAC system can respond to presence and movement of people in the building, both saving energy and making it a more pleasant place for people to work.
The connected luminaires are uniquely identified by an IP address, allowing them to be individually monitored, managed, and controlled. Each light point sends and receives data, allowing managers to track occupancy patterns, changes in temperature, and much much more while employees can personalise the lighting in their workspaces. Offering employees the ability to personalise their immediate work area can have a profound effect on well-being and effectiveness. There is also a desire from employees for this level of flexibility, with a recent survey from Savills and the British Council for Offices finding that almost half of workers in open-plan offices showed an increasing demand for individual control of temperature and lighting. The findings actually placed lighting as one of three most important factors affecting employees’ wellbeing at work and their satisfaction with their workplace.
The energy and environmental benefits of LED are widely recognised, but is this impacted at all by the use of connected lighting systems? Typically, lighting is responsible for 40% of a building’s electricity use, but energy consumption can be reduced dramatically by bringing the internet of things to office buildings. Cisco estimates that the 1,400 LED luminaires alone will result in a 50% energy saving over traditional fluorescent lighting. With the connected lighting operations in place, they expect to save 80%. The additional energy saving will result from analysing the data and optimising space usage. In addition, because fixtures receive both data and power over a single Ethernet connection, this eliminates the need for costly electrical wiring during construction or renovation.
Ultimately, the pairing of connected digital lighting and Power over Ethernet means offices will benefit from the best energy-efficient lighting experience and are able to use information acquired from connected lighting system to save energy, reduce costs, improve productivity, and optimise the workspace environment. It is clear that connected lighting has a vital role to play in the evolution of the internet of things and that we are already beginning to realise it’s potential with glimpses of the kinds of office environments that will one day be commonplace around the world. The power is in our hands to connect to a smarter, brighter, more productive future.