LEDs: a Whole New World for Lighting

Energy efficiency is just one of their benefits

23 May 2016

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs), also known as solid-state lighting, are quickly becoming the de facto standard technology for illuminating our homes, offices, factories, parking lots, and roadways. LEDs allow us to adjust our environments in ways that older technologies never could. What can we look forward to as LEDs take over?

One of the biggest advantages of LEDs is the dramatic reduction in energy usage. LEDs need only a fraction of the power required by incandescent bulbs or metal halide lamps. Although the number of LED installations is still relatively small, the adoption rate is projected to increase as LED products’ cost per lumen continues to decrease.


Another significant advantage of LEDs is the potential to facilitate centralized building systems control. Because such LED installations are digital, integration of sensors that, for example, control lights when a person enters or exits a room or when nighttime approaches is relatively straightforward.

LEDs also make it possible to communicate with other building systems such as HVAC and security monitoring. That, in turn, opens the gateway to optimizing overall building system performance to ensure the safety of occupants, maximize comfort, and minimize energy usage.

The potential for comprehensive building system management using lighting as the anchor for monitoring—referred to as the Internet of lights—is being pursued not only by LED manufacturers but also by control systems developers and IT companies.


LEDs have the potential to improve the well-being and productivity of humans, farm animals, and plants—all made possible by the diodes’ color tunability and dimming capabilities.

Recent studies indicate, for example, that when office lighting contains a higher level of light in the blue wavelengths, worker productivity increases. Lights with a higher red component can create a more restful environment for hospital patients.

The wavelengths of an LED source can be customized for a particular type of plant, thereby increasing greenhouse yields. Animals also respond to the lighting in their environment and can be encouraged to yield more milk, say, or lay more eggs, through appropriate selection of barn lighting.


Imagine a world in which you could adjust the lighting in your living room to duplicate a desert or a tropical rainforest just by tapping your smartphone. The room’s lighting would turn off automatically when you went to bed. Then, in the morning, as you sipped your coffee, the room’s lighting could mimic a bright, sunny day even if it was gloomy out. At work, your desk lighting would automatically dim or brighten as necessary.

All those capabilities, and more, are already possible. And they represent only a fraction of the choices awaiting us through LEDs.

IEEE Senior Member Yoelit H. Hiebert has worked in the LED field for nearly 10 years, in both manufacturing and energy management. She is a senior engineer at Leidos, where she serves as a solid-state lighting expert. She is the chair of the IEEE St. Louis Section.

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