By DAVID PARRETT
Lighting design for medical offices is no longer about choosing a fixture and flipping a switch on in the morning and off at night. New smart technologies are connecting lights with other essential building systems and sensors that can turn lighting into the brain of an office space. Smart lighting solutions can monitor occupancy levels, monitor heating and cooling, adjust lighting levels based on occupancy and daylight availability. And, all of this can be controlled from a simple to use app.
Imagine an office space where the lights automatically turn on when the first employee arrives in the morning and turn off a short time after the last employee leaves at night without anyone putting any thought into it. Bathroom lights, exam room lights, lab lights, personal office lights all flick on the moment someone sets foot into a space. And, as the sun shines into the lobby or evening descends the lights dim or brighten based on the amount of natural light filtering into the space. All of this is now possible.
Connected lighting is turning on new opportunities for medical offices to reduce energy usage and costs while also improving aesthetics. Instead of lights remaining on all day or only at one lighting level sensors and schedules can be used to auto-adjust lighting. In the morning and evening, schedules can be set to raise or dim the lights based on the amount of daylight sensors detect filtering in through the windows. Dimming lights during the middle of the day can create compounding cost-savings over time. The color tone of lighting can be changed depending on the time of day or weather conditions. Customizing the lighting of an office by day or by hour based on the environment can make the space more appealing to patients increasing their comfort and potentially boosting their loyalty. The same effect can be had on employees.
In many common areas, connected lighting systems can eliminate the need for light switches. In medical offices this can be paticularly important in reducing the spread of germs. Motion sensors can be installed to automatically turn lights on and off as well as ventilation fans in areas like washrooms and kitchens.
Just like smart assistants and connected lighting systems are making home life more convenient, similar features adapted for office needs are achievable but before upgrading to a connected lighting system it is important to plan for the future. As new software is developed to improve system efficiency and safety, it is vital that a network of devices be able to upgrade and offer the latest features. Think of it this way, no one would want to buy a new phone or computer every time a software update is issued. It is easier to just download the update, restart your system and continue with business as usual. While lighting and sensor updates may not be required as frequently as smartphone or computer updates, over time systems can become obsolete. Having the ability to execute over-the-air updates can make it easier to improve system efficiency and keep systems in alignment with the latest features at all times.
Keeping connected lighting systems up-to-date can also be important for maintaining strong cyber security defenses. New internet-based security threats emerge daily, and many of these threats attempt to infiltrate and inflict harm on unprotected networks. Although lighting control networks are typically separated physically (and virtually) from a company's Information Technology (IT) network, the threat of intrusion cannot be underestimated or ignored. The ability to consistently update the lighting control system and all connected devices allows for the latest, most advanced security measures to be implemented as new threats are identified. While network security is normally not a concern for inspectors as more and more buildings incorporate IoT systems, and if future threats arise that compromise these systems, this could become a new area of regulation, especially since medical records are already a hot target for cyber criminals.
Another factor to consider when selecting a connected lighting system is whether to go with fixture-based or area-based controls. Generally, most medical offices will be best served by a blend of the two options. The area-based approach makes the most sense in a bigger and more heavily trafficked space such as a lobby or storage areas where large pools of light are perfectly acceptable, and where individual luminaire control is not needed. Fixture-based controls would be ideal for individual offices, exam rooms and other areas where being able to isolate light fixtures individually is preferable. Different solutions within different spaces in a single building makes more sense and lessens the cost burden of investing in a connected lighting system.
In an age of smart homes and buildings, consumers will be more likely to frequent businesses where technology is an emphasis. Connected lighting is a smart decision for medical offices that are concerned about reducing energy usage, want the benefits of cost savings as a result, and who are interested in how technology can influence and even improve business, employee production and the overall customer experience. New advances are made in medicine every day, don't leave your office in the dark ages by relying on old fashioned lighting when there is a better way to manage lighting.
David Parrett is Director of Product Marketing for Cortet, the leader in smart building IoT technologies, creating the industry standard for compatibility and performance, about how medical offices can benefit from smart lighting beyond simple cost savings and energy reduction. Visit www.cortet.com.