“Adaptive,” a Term Describing Lighting Systems that Improve Themselves

I encountered a new description of lighting system architecture that does more than just controlling and monitoring. I first heard this term in my interviews with lighting control and monitoring specialist, Echelon.  The term is “adaptive”.  The term brings to mind Darwin and survival of the fittest. However, when applied to lighting the term “adaptive” means survival of the most energy efficient and economical.

According to Jay Canteenwala of Echelon, “In brief ‘adaptive lighting’  is a new term and means lighting that adapts to the environment around it. So there is an added element of sensors ( besides  simple time or astronomically based dimming). It also involves some level of study on human factors.”

Some prior knowledge and study of lighting preferences and “human factors” is necessary to make the best use of such a system.

Jay noted, “For example one finding is that people feel  more secure if they walk into a parking lot  lit at say 35% and the lights ramp to 70% on detecting  their motion.”   He said that people would feel less secure if the lights were on at say 100% all the time.

He pointed out, “This was preferred both by the students at UC  Davis as well as the police because they could detect that something changed to have the light levels go up.”

Jay went on to refer to a specific publication from UC Davis (who chose Echelon’s adaptive lighting system). The publication describes the pairing of lighting controls, sensors, and dimmable lighting to maximize energy savings compared to traditional systems.

Adaptive implies change or improvement. In terms of lighting, it can imply the improvement of overall system efficiency with knowledge gained from usage patterns.

An adaptive lighting system gathers information and data about occupancy, ambient light levels, to of sunrise and sunset, movement, and other usage patterns and environmental information. An adaptive lighting system gathers this information over time from sensors within some or even each luminaire.

What it does with this information is where the magic happens. The system takes this information and data and analyzes it. From this analysis, over time, an adaptive system can devise a series of lighting control rules and usage patterns. These rules and usage patterns optimize the output of each luminaire in the system to meet the occupancy and usage needs. Most often this type of system is used with municipal and street lighting systems. Such a system can also be used with lighting in offices.

I have frequently heard the terms “Smart lighting” or “intelligent lighting” used to describe such systems. Smart and intelligent are not specific enough and to the general public might seem to mean that if you do not use such economical and energy saving lighting, you are not smart or intelligent. On the other hand, if you are in the lighting industry, the terms smart and intelligent mean that the lighting system does something specifically that makes it intelligent or smart. However, these terms by themselves do not tell you or even imply what this action is. Intelligent or smart might refer to learning something from the environment or usage patterns. However, it does not give you an idea of what action is taken with this knowledge.

The term “adaptive” implies a change. This change is different than just learning; it is improving. In this case, it refers to saving more electricity, lasting longer, reducing maintenance costs, and ultimately saving more money.

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