Business Technology

Dealing with unproductive employees or goods that aren't selling? – It's all in the light

11 min read

26 February 2019

Features Editor, Real Business

We've all been warned not to stare directly into light sources because it can damage our eyes, right? Well, forget what your parents taught you, because the team at Wave Illumination, a light tech company, says we should. They have come up with a tool that reads light sources so that businesses can choose the right lighting– and drive sales and employee productivity in the process.

What if you could measure the health of an office building, and the employees within it? Imagine if a piece of tech could tell workers when they needed a break and some fresh air, and what sort of lighting they needed to achieve maximum productivity?

Well, such technology exists, and Wave Illumination is an SME that’s riding the crest of this particular ‘wave’ of light-based technology.

Light-tech isn’t about design, it’s about science

Light-tech isn’t about gallerists fiddling around with complimentary light hues, it’s deeply scientific and data led, says Iain Macrae from the UK’s Lighting Industry Academy.

He, along with the Wave Illumination team, are the hosts of today’s event, which, taking place at London’s National Gallery, promises to show us a unique piece of technology that will change the way businesses see and use light sources –  forever.

Wave Illumination promises to help customers “unlock the value of light,” with a mission statement as bold this, just how much will their product impact the business economy?

From the multi-billion dollar art economy to shared offices: The utilities of light technology are all-encompassing

From taking over the art world by improving the way visitors view intricate paintings, to horticulture, conservation and even office wellbeing, light-tech, and in particular, the way different types of light are understood and “read”, is experiencing the biggest innovation period of any type of technology ever, says Macrae. Big words indeed. But is this true? Let’s find out.

“Lighting makes up 20-40% of the energy consumed in a building and is the primary fuel which helps plants grow. Being able to control lighting conditions can have huge impacts on both building and plant output efficiency. That’s why being able to read light sources in a horticultural context is highly useful.” – Ian Macrae, the Lighting Industry Academy

The brain-power of a scientifically charged startup, with the funding of an FTSE 100 group company

Wave Illumination is a startup birthed from the billion-dollar tech behemoth, the Halma group, which is a global conglomerate of impactful tech companies. Being the scientific accelerator of a multinational organisation, it gives the team the freedom to employ their scientific expertise, whilst counting on the resources and global reach of an FTSE 100 group.

– But what disruptive tech product are they trying to peddle? We’ll find out later…

A mission to impact businesses through cutting-edge science

Whilst the mechanics of their product is grounded in physics, (we’ll find out about that soon), Wave Illumination’s company mission is to impact the consumer environment, and help individual businesses grow via their technology, says Wave Illumination’s marketing manager, Seb Baucutt in his opening presentation to the select crowd.

The lighting industry in 2019: LED sophistication vs flat panel lighting

But what sort of lighting eco-system is Wave Illumination sweeping into?

“The introduction of LED lighting was the biggest advancement in lighting since the Victorians and gas lighting,” says Macrae. “However LEDs gave us the power to create lighting colour schemes, colour appearances, and to even affect moods, including how warm or cold people feel in a room,” says Macrae.

Putting a stop to the culture of accepting bad lighting

But whilst these advancements were made, many customers were still happily accepting low-grade flat panel lighting, says Macrae, “unfortunately people are still happy to sell poor light sources to customers who continue to have a poor understanding of what light is.”

By “poor light sources”, Macrae means those depressing colour drained light sources you see in harshly lit windowless offices. (Insert feelings of despair here).

So, what is the product that Wave Illumination promises will change all this?

WaveGo, the product that puts lighting solutions into the customer’s hands

WaveGo is a handheld tool for characterising light.

WaveGo is the product that the Wave Illumination team are about to drop on consumers this year.

It’s a hand-held tool for helping businesses asses the quality of their light sources. Connecting wirelessly to your smartphone, it’s accompanied by the WaveGo app, which lets you see the results straight away in a similar form to Google Analytics.

“By providing a light analysis service through this new product, we want to influence the urban world around us from offices to galleries, and even influence horticultural processes.” – Seb Baucutt, Wave Illumination

An educational tool

The Wave Illumination team are keen to communicate their message of impact, a point that’s picked up yet again by their business manager, Paul Higham, “by quantifying light in terms of colour, temperature, hue and warmth, we’re empowering our customers to act on the results and improve their light conditions in their businesses, whether that’s a high-end store exhibiting high-value products, or gallery owners wanting to ensure their customers see their artworks in the best light.”

That’s the thing about this new piece of tech, it’s not going to solve your lighting problems for you, it’s actually educating users. By helping them to understand what constitutes good, and poor light, users can improve it and better sell their goods and services to customers.

Human-centric lighting: Why offices can benefit from smart light-tech

It doesn’t matter that we, as a human race, have graduated from neolithic-cave-based living, because when it comes to our brains, and how we react and behave, we are still primitive beings. But what does this mean where light is concerned?

It means that office-based workers are deeply affected by the environmental conditions of their workplace. This includes lighting conditions, and if there’s natural matter in the space including flora and fauna, or if there’s not.

Biophilia: Creating offices based on the natural environment

An example of biophilic office design. Source: k2space

If office spaces mirror the natural environment, including the natural oscillation of light, it can tackle a multitude of employee ailments, from fatigue to even seasonal affective disorder. This is because smart lighting can help us correct our circadian rhythms, (our biological drowsy/awake alarms). Read more about circadian rhythms here.

Incorporating plant life into office spaces is also an example of biophilic office design which can also improve staff wellbeing and productivity via a more oxygen-rich environment.

Human Centric Lighting: The eradication of skin-deep wellbeing and HR practices

Human Centric Lighting, (HCL) is lighting designed for the visual, emotional, and biological well-being of humans. This sort of lighting structure is underpinned by light colour, and when implemented, mirrors the changing colour temperature of the sun.

Installing these systems can increase workplace concentration and productivity, improve sleep quality, and even accelerate patient recovery time in hospitals.

These findings are underpinned by studies from the International Well Building Institute, who the Wave Illumination team are working closely with in order to enrich the office wellbeing agenda further than its current shallow implementations. Wave Illumination’s Paul Higham explains what they believe these shallow HR implementations to be…

“Office wellbeing starts with employee health. If you let your employees sit in a dimly, synthetically lit space, of course they will be drowsy and tired.” – Paul Higham, Wave Illumination

“The idea is if you invest in smart lighting techniques that mirror solar processes, workers will feel better and work better. This means a reduction in burnout and absenteeism and an overall reduction in overhead costs for businesses,” he continues.

Where does Wave Illumination fit into the business world?

The answer is – everywhere.

Holding trans-industry appeal, Wave Illumination’s WaveGo technology is an educational tool that empowers its users, (businesses across the sectors) to re-evaluate their lighting to generate better sales and more satisfied customers.

From allowing gallery visitors or even potential buyers to better see intricate colour schemes within high-value artworks, to illuminating consumer goods in high-end retail stores, to improving growth rates for plants and foodstuffs via smarter lighting, and even to boost office-based productivity, if light sources can be read, they can be understood and changed for the benefit of the business in question.

Sophisticated, empowering and educational light technology like Wave Illumination’s WaveGo means businesses can empower themselves to know what light works to generate success. Whether that success is measured via employee productivity, horticultural growth or the number of happy attendants at an art exhibition. Business owners, the solution have been put, rather firmly, in your hands.