The evolution of LED technology and the LED/solid-state lighting (SSL) market during the past decade has been remarkable. However, we’re in the early stages of this explosive growth pattern, and the industry is only now beginning to see a shift in the use of LEDs from peripheral accent and entertainment lighting toward mainstream task and general area illumination.
As LED technology advances, the range of available LED systems and controls has evolved along with it. They are becoming more complex and intelligent, suitable for an increasingly diverse array of applications and constantly expanding design possibilities.
The Role Of Controls
In addition to long life, flexibility, and energy efficiency, unique controls are one of the most significant differentiators for LEDs versus traditional lighting technologies. Controls add a range of capabilities to LED systems, allowing designers to create custom displays including digital graphics, animation, and video playback.
Color shifting, patterns, and brightness also can be monitored with controls to create endless options. Effects that required multiple fixtures and complex color mixing now require just a single fixture and the touch of a button.
Peripheral input devices such as photovoltaic cells, astronomical clocks, and occupancy sensors can be used to deliver triggers and transform an installation from a static cycle into an animated display that takes its form from its environment. For example, a passerby can impact a lightshow by waving a hand. Or, the speed of a car can create dynamic changes in systems through the use of proximity and pressure sensors or infrared cameras.
These devices can detect the presence and motions of people or objects and signal reactions in the lighting display. Controls deliver innovation and flexibility to LED systems through simple user interfaces, a near impossible feat using traditional lighting technologies.
Consider FireKeepers Casino, located in Battle Creek, Mich., as a prime example of the visual and design impact that lighting controls can have. Its “Portal of Light” entrance, in addition to other areas throughout the casino, features an LED system (Fig. 1) that employs intelligent controls to create dazzling visual displays. The control systems also enable lighting to be synced with music and events throughout the gaming floors.
Color-changing installations aren’t the only ones to benefit from these technological advances. At the David H. Koch Theater (Fig. 2) at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, dynamic controls are used to shift the focus of onlookers to different parts of the installation.
Using a warm white back-lighting LED board, uniform illumination is cast onto a static image engraved onto a diffusing material. Depending on the program, different aspects of the image take prominence as varying boards are dimmed.
As the technology for LEDs and controls advance, lighting design is rapidly evolving, and we are seeing increased demand for full-scale, customizable solutions, such as the examples at FireKeepers and Lincoln Center. Yet LEDs aren’t one-size-fits-all lighting solutions in themselves.
To achieve design goals using LEDs, it’s often helpful to work with a manufacturer of both LED fixtures and controls to create unique and turnkey solutions. Working with a single manufacturer can eliminate issues with interconnectivity issues between lighting system components. Also, seamless implementation and support are incredibly beneficial.
Alongside the evolution in lighting technology, we are also experiencing a shifting industry environment. The players have changed as traditional lighting manufacturers adjust their business models and strategies toward LEDs.
Combining the innovation and industry expertise of two or more companies, all involved are better equipped to provide turnkey LED-lighting solutions and continue to advance the possibilities of lighting design