Software pervades the lighting industry across the supply chain (MAGAZINE)

July 24, 2020
MAURY WRIGHT considers the many ways in which the software world has commingled with the solid-state lighting universe.

When I was working on the interview with our Sapphire Awards Illumineers of the Year, Bob Rogers and Kory Liszt of Cree Lighting, one of the things I asked about was the importance of software relative to hardware that enables the sun-mimicking Cadiant experience. Both are important for different reasons, but software is where the ability lies to make a Cadiant fixture work its magic. In several phone calls I had about that time, software came up for different reasons. And thinking about the situation, I realized just how much the lighting industry now depends on software.

Of course, LED and solid-state lighting (SSL) product development has long been dependent on software, as has almost all product development. Optical modeling software allows engineers to test beam patterns and new concepts with amazing speed. Meanwhile, all products rely on electronic design automation tools at some level.

Still, software has bubbled up much closer to the lighting designer/specifier, and even to the end user. Lighting designers have had access to software tools for some time that enable the designer to try different concepts. But there were plenty of projects specified in the past with the assumption that light sources were omnidirectional and based on simple rules about spacing and light levels for the application at hand.

The LED makes that specification task far more complex. SSL products can accurately deliver beams in many different shapes and sizes. It’s almost impossible to get an LED-based project truly right without some software assistance. Yes, I know there are plenty of one-for-one retrofits such as TLEDs in commercial offices. But I’m really focusing on settings for layered and subtle effects.

The need for software becomes more urgent when you start mixing different fixture types and color uniformity is a concern. With legacy sources, you could generally just match CCTs. Now you have to consider the details of the spectral power distribution (SPD) of a product to project the impact in a space. And you can’t really deal with SPD without software tools.

Moving to connected lighting, there are huge software code repositories in such products. That software is the domain of the developers. But specifiers and end users have to interact with it, too. The process can be analogous to installing a new peripheral on a PC. The user interface is yet another element.

This software-driven evolution does bring many benefits alongside complexities. For example, the companies behind such products can quickly add new features and applications to the connected lighting platform. Signify and Enlighted, for instance, have both added applications allowing facility managers to optimize traffic patterns and social distancing inside offices for health measures.

The story goes on and spans to other SSL applications such as horticultural lighting. Light distribution and spectra options are different for plants. Maximizing yield in controlled environment agriculture projects will require software. We will have some discussion of that need at our HortiCann Light + Tech virtual event in October. With an application such as horticulture, software deployment will extend into the artificial intelligence realm where autonomous systems make decisions on what plants need. We will have a compelling presentation on that topic at HortiCann.

Ours is a software world. Embrace it.

Maury Wright,


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About the Author

Maury Wright | Editor in Chief

Maury Wright is an electronics engineer turned technology journalist, who has focused specifically on the LED & Lighting industry for the past decade. Wright first wrote for LEDs Magazine as a contractor in 2010, and took over as Editor-in-Chief in 2012. He has broad experience in technology areas ranging from microprocessors to digital media to wireless networks that he gained over 30 years in the trade press. Wright has experience running global editorial operations, such as during his tenure as worldwide editorial director of EDN Magazine, and has been instrumental in launching publication websites going back to the earliest days of the Internet. Wright has won numerous industry awards, including multiple ASBPE national awards for B2B journalism excellence, and has received finalist recognition for LEDs Magazine in the FOLIO Eddie Awards. He received a BS in electrical engineering from Auburn University.