Five ways lighting will shape the cities of the future

Innovations in lighting could lower energy demands, create ‘city brands’ and change our urban spaces for the better in the years ahead.

A century ago, less than 10% of the world’s population lived in cities; by 2050, two out of every three people on earth will call a city home. Today’s cities consume more than 70% of the world’s energy supply — a figure which, obviously, will increase over time. More energy needs, a greater drain on resources… something has to give. Can technology support our cities of the future?

We think so. Lighting, for example, accounts for 19% of the world’s total electricity consumption. Almost two thirds of that energy is used for lighting commercial and public buildings in cities, with a further 15% going to street lighting.

How will innovations in lighting not only lower the energy demands of cities but do so while shaping our urban spaces in future years?

Turning off the lights
One of the biggest changes is something that you may not — or should not — even notice. If you work in a smart office, you might already be aware of lights that come on when you walk into the room and turn off, automatically, when everyone vacates that room.

Well, imagine that same principle not only in offices, malls, supermarkets and public buildings, but in streets too. Connected lighting provides the right amount of light precisely where it is needed and when it is needed, enabling municipal authorities to save energy and maintenance costs and to reduce obtrusive light.

Whiter lights for safer streets
Cities must provide safer streets for both motorists and pedestrians and, although often overlooked, lighting can make a huge contribution in this regard. At the same light level, more than 80% of people feel safer with bright white light than with traditional street-lighting solutions.

As it is the closest approximation to actual sunlight, white light is considered to be more authentic and comfortable. Its high levels of perceived brightness and superior color also mean that both motorists, cyclists and pedestrians can spot possible dangers more easily.

Less smog more air
On average, energy savings of 40% are made possible simply by switching to energy-efficient lighting technologies such as LED. On a global level, that means potential savings of around €128 billion in reduced electricity cost, or 670 million tons of CO2 (the equivalent annual output of 642 power plants).

Inspiring environments
Safer, more efficient lighting is one thing. But connected LEDs also have another huge benefit in their enormous ‘cool factor’.

You just have to look at Bayer Munich’s Allianz Arena, for example, to see the exceptional freedom in terms of controlled lighting effect — color, dynamics and design — that connected LEDs offer. This will see cities move towards intelligent and emotive lighting that can transform urban environments, offering city residents and visitors uplifting and inspiring xperiences, as well as safety and comfort.

The city as a brand
With so much of the global population living in cities, municipalities will have to offer welcoming atmospheres to attract residents, visitors and industry. In short, cities themselves will have to become brands. High-quality, intelligent lighting helps make a city safer and more attractive, enhancing its brand identity — the distinctive signature that defines its appeal and differentiates it from other cities.

This article was taken from ‘Connected lighting for smart and livable cities’ by Harry Verhaar, Head of Global Public & Government Affairs, Philips Lighting