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Monday, July 27, 2015

Guest blog : New uses for LEDs emerging
A guest blog by Tom Bray

The large ­scale production of LEDs in China has undoubtedly made the energy saving light source a more affordable and accessible option. In recent years retailers have been promoting the benefits of using LED technology, making it a go ­to consumer product for helping reduce electricity bills and conserve energy. Although LEDs are still being fine tuned by experts, such as dimming compatibility issues, on a whole they have been well received and are currently the champions of energy efficient lighting.

The headway that LED lamps have made is as clear as day. From what was once a niche product, only available for people with a nice bit expenditure, has now become a viable choice for everyone shopping in their local store. Yet this example only demonstrates LEDs in their most basic form – a module in a light bulb. What about LEDs integrating with other advanced technology, innovations and future design ideas?

How great they are at saving energy is well rehearsed but often lagging behind are other advantages posed by the LED. Colour, flexibility and size are all contributors to the LEDs success. Although they may not be acknowledged or fully understood by general consumers these feats have not gone unnoticed with technological engineers, creative thinkers and product designers. LEDs have now found their feet in an array of sectors where traditional fluorescents and halogens just can't tread.

Imagine a world where you can access information technology without picking up a phone or switching on a computer, instead achieved through a body accessory. Well designers have already got the ball rolling with LED eye contacts in the offing – AKA the bionic lens. This latest innovation is in its early stages of development but the main premise is that users will be able to gain access to
information such as emails through the means of a highly advanced contact lens.

The sheer size of technology ploughed into this diddy device will require pages and pages full of information to help dissect its true mechanics and function, but the core elements involved are the antenna, a chip, an integrated circuit, LEDs, Fresnel lenses and polymer substrate with electrical interconnects. By using LEDs powered by a chip users will be able to interpret visual experiences from the eye.

This tiny contact lens could well be the end point of a monumentally long technological supply chain that relies upon a global search engine or a video/image streaming computing power from around in the world. However, the reliance of such bionic lens on big transnational server farms could perhaps hinder an energy efficient life cycle, regardless of how small, convenient and energy friendly the actual screens are. Something to bear in mind for developers, space planners and appliers of infrastructure.

Whether photographs, graphs or text, the implementation of LED technology is vital to make these images achievable. It is also thought that this innovation will be a major hit within the gaming industry as it could open up many doors in the mysterious world of augmented reality. If abused this technology has the potential to be dangerous revelation but on the face of it, and through rose
tinted glasses, it's an ingenious and extremely exciting development.

Sticking with the eye but a completely different example is an already established beauty product which was launched in Japan by digital media designers Soomi Park who have sought to emphasise the shape and size of the eye by developing the LED eye lash!

This product is yet to find its way overseas, but could indicate where similar beauty and fashion applications may follow. Who's to say that illuminating facial features won't be the blusher and skin foundation of the future or discrete signalling system of the future?

Let me take you well away from the face and into a warm place – the home, the restaurant, the hotel foyer, because LED technology has wriggled its flexible shape into interior design as well.

Around five years ago electrical giants Philips hooked up with Kvadrat Soft Cells to create an enhanced feature for any room – LED wall paper. With Philips expertise laid within lighting, control and electricity as well as Kvadrat Soft Cells formidable reign within textiles, foam backed panels and sound absorption; this collaboration was always going to be interesting.

Perhaps not the most feasible application for general households due to an expensive price tag and questions over practicality, it is though an adventurous invention for commercial outlets. With sound absorption qualities for the reduction of noise it also promises a new route for restaurants to create a cosy and intimate feeling through its variable colour controls.

Controlled via a remote control users are able to reflect an unlimited amount of hues to help evolve a multitude of effects. This can no doubt develop into a brilliant way for portraying a particular mood or theme; helping to drum home a brand's identity, heritage and house style. The intimacy within the room can go up a notch with LED wall papers, whether a sophisticated approach for dining in a restaurant or a sparkling hit to the senses as you enter a luxury hotel – it really does offer an interesting alternative to getting the paint tins out and redecorating.

So whether it's future fashion, beauty, gaming or interiors it looks like LEDs are going to play an important role. Next time you see a stack of bulbs in a supermarket or a tradesman trying to flog energy saving light bulbs just remember that the potential of the LED stretches much further than lighting a hallway at home. What's more they are kind to the environment and will accomplish much, much more than any fluorescent or halogen lamp can ever do.

So isn't it about time we ditched the energy hungry lamps and made it compulsory to go LED? The sign of the times suggests that they're very much in the plans for the foreseeable future. But then again, that doesn't necessarily mean that LEDs are the concrete winners forever because innovators still need to progress lighting efficiencies, but for now, they are the winners and they are

By Tom Bray of Direct Trade Supplies