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Hotel Guests Become Pawns in LED Lighting Design

When simple things like turning on the lights become too complex, Philips designers decided it was time for them to make a move.

Philips Electronics is stuffed with clever researchers, designers, engineers and marketers. Their efforts have resulted in an impressive array of lighting, health care, personal care, audio-visual and other products. In the presentation "Beyond the Switch" at the 7th International Design and Emotion Conference last week, Jon Mason and Dirk Engelen from the Philips office in the Netherlands shared some of their recent work on hotel lighting and light-emitting diodes, or LEDs.

The task before the Philips team was to develop a way for guests to control the LEDs being used to light their hotel rooms. This is challenging because there can be a lot of LEDs and lighting ambiances/features in a room that need to be coordinated in some way. Hotel guests don't generally stay in a room long enough to learn a complex light control system — even if they were motivated to do so. Guests also speak an assortment of languages and have different experiences on how to turn on the lights.

The Philips team took advantage of information generally known to the traveling public — that temperatures are warmer in the tropics and becomes cooler in regions of the world farther away from the equator. To control the lighting in their room, guests staying in the room envisioned by Philips will place a control piece, which could look like a chess piece or any iconic mini-sculpture chosen by a hotel, on a horizontal map of the world. When the piece is placed closer to the equator room light will be warmer, farther from the equator, cooler. The Philips team customized the lighting look for countries on the map using information collected via images searches for each nation.

Guests can experiment and find the ambiance that is most suitable for them at a particular moment. The system does not prescribe appropriate lighting for relaxing or entertaining or working, for example.

The iconic mini-sculpture will be designed so that it is inexpensive enough for guests to remove from the room and keep as a souvenir of the experience in the hotel room — and potentially increase repeat bookings.

The control solution developed by Philips has been prototyped and evaluated by hoteliers and members of the general public. Responses have been positive. Expect to see it in a hotel room you book on some future journey.