ITU researcher receives award for intelligent lighting project

Kjell Yngve Petersen, Associate Professor at the IT University in Copenhagen, has received the energy sector’s research award ELFORSK for a project on intelligent lighting that provides energy savings as well as better lighting for the users.

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A combination of LED lights and artificial intelligence may in the future provide better lighting of the buildings we live in, while lowering energy consumption at the same time, concludes a research project by Kjell Yngve Petersen from ITU's Institute of Digital Design, which is receiving the ELFORSK Award at Energy Summit in Copenhagen on Thursday, June 7.

The project aims to introduce the qualities of daylight into artificial lighting, which is made possible by LED technology in conjunction with intelligent software.

"The way we have understood light so far – as either turned on or off - does not take into account the fact that humans can see in many light spectrums and actually prefer variation in lighting as in the natural daylight. LED lights are very different from the lamps we have used previously as they allow precise control of colour and brightness and can also be built into materials like walls and ceilings. This offers ample opportunities for designing artificial light more like daylight," says Kjell Yngve Petersen.

Artificial intelligence adapts the light to users

Kjell Yngve Petersen developed a control system that, by way of sensors and artificial intelligence, adapts the light to users' changing needs and use patterns, daylight variations, building design, power supply fluxes and many other parameters.

The software utilizes a softer form of artificial intelligence than what we know from robots and self-driving cars. The inspiration comes from multiplayer computer games, where snapshots of the other player are not coded in advance, but are generated based on a variety of specifications as the game unfolds.

Similarly, the user is part of a constant generation of the infinite possibilities of intelligent light, though it generates the light according to a number of predefined rules. The system is programmed to understand the relationship between light, people and space, and designs how they interact through the software generator.

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With artificial intelligence, the light can have a quality of being in constant motion, just like daylight. Changes are so fluid that you almost don’t notice them.

Kjell Yngve Petersen, Associate Professor at ITU
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"With artificial intelligence, the light can have a quality of being in constant motion, just like daylight. Changes are so fluid that you almost don’t notice them. This has many advantages, because our sense of sight doesn’t like to being in the same conditions all the time," says Kjell Yngve Petersen.

He emphasizes that intelligent light also works alongside traditional forms of light – one can easily do with just one intelligent light source in the room. The system also allows manual operation in situations where the user prefers this, or if the internet connection fails.

Major potential energy savings

Danish energy policy is striving towards an entirely renewable energy supply by 2050. This means that in the future, we will have to get used to weather-dependent fluctuations in the supply from windmills and the like. Power must be used when it is produced – and intelligent lighting systems help to control power consumption without compromising the user experience, says Kjell Yngve Petersen.

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Intelligent lighting allows you to decide if more or less power should be used, without changing the quality for those who need it.

Kjell Yngve Petersen, Associate Professor
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"Intelligent lighting allows you to decide if more or less power should be used, without changing the quality for those who need it. If you connect the lighting systems of all the buildings, you would get ample control of the power consumption so that they suit the current supply conditions," he says.

In addition, intelligent light only goes on where it is needed – naturally, this would also lead to major energy savings.

"The vast majority of the light we turn on is not actually needed. For instance streetlights where there are no people and in situations where there are only people in parts of a room. With adaptive light, light waste is reduced," he says.

He refers to an experiment in which intelligent lighting was tested in a reading room with 100 students.

Since the light only turned on where students were sitting, energy consumption dived to less than a third. But the experiment also showed that the students started using the light in new ways - for example sitting in the dark with light only on their book. For Kjell Yngve Petersen, this is another indication that flexibility and variation in illumination is natural to humans.

Ready for implementation

The intelligent light system has been tried out in a number of test environments, but Kjell Yngve Petersen hopes that his project will inspire builders to think about the possibilities of intelligent lighting in connection with new construction and renovation projects of private homes, as well as public buildings and office buildings.

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The time is ripe for a paradigm shift in our approach to lighting. The technology is in place and can improve well-being by giving users more control of light conditions.

Kjell Yngve Petersen, Associate Professor at ITU
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The technology is close to being ready for use and implementing it on an experimental basis does not require major reconstruction or existing smart infrastructure, he emphasizes.

Kjell Yngve Petersen is already in dialogue with three Copenhagen schools about trying out adaptive lights in connection with future renovation projects. He hopes that more will follow suit.

"The time is ripe for a paradigm shift in our approach to lighting. The technology is in place and can improve well-being by giving users more control of light conditions," he says.

Further information

Kjell Yngve Petersen, Associate Professor, phone +45 7218 5055, email kynp@itu.dk

Vibeke Arildsen, Press Officer, phone 2555 0447, email viar@itu.dk