Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Future: Internet of Light as part of Internet of Everything

Lighting as the bridge between physical and digital.


The Led Specialist attended Philips' most recent webinar on The Internet of Light and semantic lighting by Zary Segall, professor at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm. At the start of this webinar Segall states its purpose, to start thinking about 'how we are using light to connect the physical and digital world in ways we never dreamed of.' A concept that at first seemed desperately confusing to us but as the webinar went on, our understanding of it increased and began to make us excited. This article is a break down of that webinar and the exciting ideas that is explores.

 Smart Lighting is all about user experience, before beginning the webinar, Segall took a poll asking the question,  has your experience with your mobile phone fundamentally changed in the last 25 years? The answer to which is pretty obvious for most but he also asked attendees of the webinar to answer another question for the poll, has your user experience with your kitchen lighting changed fundamentally in the last 25 years? This created the opposite answer. For the last 25 years the way we interact with our kitchen lighting or delving deeper; home lighting and lighting in general has not been challenged or changed and remains extremely simple but Segall poses the question, what if light could understand you? 

User experience is all about you and a more modern description of you is you as a physical sense and you in a digital sense, or as a digital representation of yourself. The way that google defines you and things about you and all the information that has been put together about you through the digital world. There are many features of this you, which Segall refers to as the W, the double you. For instance, the bio-mechanical W is the digital model of the way we move, the way we move an arm, a leg, they way we touch things and the way we eat. If we take the way we eat further; a digital model could understand that you have eaten something and know how many calories that you have intaken by connecting to the internet and discovering how many calories that item of food contained. Further still, it could analyse the choices you make when eating food to decipher your health and even further the W could eventually understand and interpret your cognitive processes, i.e. your thoughts and thought processes. Although this all sounds extremely futuristic and something out of i-robot, Segall assures us that we are so close to achieveing this in the not too distant future. 

In addition to the bio-mechanical W, the digital you also includes; the emotional W, the physiological W and the semantical W. Semantical meaning relating to meaning in language or logic. Segall's next concept relates specifically to this and the semantic W would understand the context and the task that it is doing as well as understand the relationship between humans and objects. Segall explores this by asking how we model the interaction between people and objects? Light. Light is the answer, light is what actually connects us to an object, it brings us information, everything we do includes light. How a piece of information is transmitted is through light, from writing it down to reading it. The Semantic W applied to this means that light becomes the most important semantic object. 
Segall gives this example, a piece of paper on a table that a light is shining on, the light will absorb the information that is on the piece of paper and search for more information on what is on the text and then this extra information can be projected by the light. The light could also be tuned to certain objects and people, so if you move the piece of paper, the light will follow. 
This interactivity of light is shown in another example, map folding, one of those annoying things that you just can't seem to get right and Segall admits that he himself is a terrible map folder. The solution he presents for this is light. The map is placed on the same table from before and the light illuminates instructions and markers as to where the map should be folder. Once each fold has been carried out it shows the next fold in the process until the map is folded perfectly. 

The next example of this is really quite incredible if slightly unnecessary, using light to make a cup of tea. Picture this; cups and teapot on table, teabags then placed on table. The light shining on the table finds information about the teabags and how they should be brewed at 97°C for 2-3 minutes. When the boiling water then gets poured into the teapot the light on the teapot is red until it reaches the optimum temperature of 97°C when it turns green and the light produces text reading 'okay to brew'. Once the tea has been brewing for the 2-3 minutes with a timer and red light shown the light then switches to green with,  'tea ready'. When the tea is then poured into a cup the light projects the different temperatures at which you may want to drink your tea which you can touch. The light then goes red until your chosen temperature of the tea is reached.  

The above concepts are pretty amazing although we are left questioning the need for this technology. Tea making and map folding (although extremely important) are not the most crucial processes in our lives or ones that specifically need improving, but perhaps this technology will be applied to more critical processes when it has been improved further. 

The final few examples of using semantic light are uses such as for mobile shopping solutions, making books interactive through light and even decorating and re-decorating your home instantly. The point that Segall finishes on  is that our physical and digital space is becoming one, light is what connects us and our entire world becoming clickable.