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Casambi plans for bright future with smart lighting

“At first we had a consumer focus because as newcomers we didn’t really understand the professional lighting market,” Timo Pakkala says. “But over the years our focus has shifted towards lighting designers and light manufacturers.”Fanny Haga

Lighting can affect our mood, alertness and even productivity. Today all you need is a mobile app to make sure you have the right illumination around you.

With the darker days of winter upon us, lighting feels like the perfect topic of discussion. Timo Pakkala is more than happy to oblige. The CEO and co-founder of Casambi, Finnish specialists in smart lighting systems, strongly believes that environmental light has the power to change how we work and live.

“Lighting has traditionally been kind of accidental,” Pakkala says. “It is always a bit too bright or dark with limited controls. But today, tunable lighting makes it possible to mimic natural light and even change colour temperature based on the weather outside or what someone is doing. We call it lighting that fits the purpose.”

Casambi is at the forefront of this revolution with a unique smart lighting control system. It consists of wireless software and hardware components, which are integrated by luminaire manufacturers into their products and used by professionals to create and control lighting environments. The system comes with mobile apps to easily configure and manage these lights.

Practical examples of Casambi’s technology can be found in offices, museums, shops and homes across Europe where it is used to create different ambiances and colour scenes. But it can also be used to enhance artwork. For a recent public exhibit in Norway, passers-by were encouraged to use the Casambi app to change the colours of a four-metre-high light installation.

Low energy but high momentum

Where Casambi advantage lies is its use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). This is a radio technology found in practically all mobile devices and means lights equipped with Casambi’s components can be controlled directly from any device even without an Internet connection.

“If you use any other radio technology, you will need a WiFi network, a router and gateway to connect and control your smart lighting system, which makes it more complex, expensive and less reliable,” Pakkala explains. “We started to develop our low energy system three years before anyone else, and others are only now starting to catch up to this technology.”

Casambi’s smart lighting system lets users control lights and create programmable lighting environments through a mobile app. Image: Casambi

Like many innovations emerging from up this way, this head start can be traced back to Nokia. Casambi’s founders Pakkala and Elena Lehtimäki got to know BLE while working at the telco giant and founded their own company in 2011 to explore new applications for what was, at the time, a novel technology.

“We started the wrong way around,” Pekkala recalls with a laugh. “First we developed our network technology and only then did we look at potential usage cases and realised there was a big change happening in the lighting industry with LEDs. Unlike traditional bulbs, it’s easy to integrate smart technology into LEDs.”

In hindsight Casambi picked the right path. Six years on, the company has established an extensive client and partner network in Europe and is now eyeing the US market with its first local sales representatives in place.

Shining a light on IoT

While Casambi has shown a knack for being ahead of its competition, its next bet is looking to capitalise on a new trend. The company is working with the afore-mentioned tunable light: luminaires which dynamically adjust their colour temperature to mimic the natural light outside. For example, during daytime brighter tones increase alertness and in evenings a more yellowish tint can help improve the supply of melatonin to the body.

“If you have tunable, smart lights you can use timers or sensors to programme them based on the amount of light outside,” Pakkala explains. “Tunable lights are an upcoming trend particularly in companies which are interested in their ambiance or the wellbeing and productivity of employees.”

While Pakkala shies away from long-term visions of the lighting industry’s future, there is one area where he sees great potential for Casambi: the Internet of Things (IoT). As IoT involves connected networks of all types of devices and machines embedded with sensors collecting vast amounts of data, the light infrastructure that already exists once again gives the company a head-start. In fact, Pakkala believes it could act as the perfect platform for the expansion of IoT.

“Lighting will have a central role in IoT because all these sensors need to be put somewhere,” he enthuses. “Lights have electricity to power the sensors and they already exist everywhere there are people. It is only starting now, but it is going to be a huge trend and our system is ready.”

The latest lighting trend is tunable lights, which can be programmed to mimic natural daylight to improve employee’s alertness and well-being. Image: Casambi
By: Eeva Haaramo