Beyond Illumination: Leveraging Urban Lighting Infrastructure

Philips has announced an alliance with MIT, for an initial term of five years and $25 million, that will ultimately support MIT research in the company’s core areas of health care and lighting solutions technology, which will be conducted in collaboration with Philips Research.

The new MIT-Philips alliance was formalized today with a signing ceremony attended by Global Head Henk van Houten of Philips Research, and MIT Provost Martin Schmidt and Associate Provost Karen Gleason. Some of the MIT researchers whose work will be supported by the new alliance also attended the signing.

On the side of lighting research, Alan Berger, a professor of urban design and landscape architecture, and Co-Director of the CAU, says the MIT-Philips alliance will focus, in part, on how to use lighting devices to generate data that can be used to help plan energy usage, from individual homes to entire urban areas. Such efforts could harness the ubiquity of lighting in modern life, making lighting fixtures into data-collection and transmission devices, as well as light sources. For example, lighting could be used to monitor pollution, measure building occupancy, or detect emergency conditions such as fires or flooding.

Lights could also be used to convey information: For example, if flooding is seen in an area, streetlights could change color to direct people to evacuation routes, Berger says. Lights could also monitor traffic, so city planners would know which areas are most heavily used and may need more resources.

“The projects will span the whole Institute,” Berger says. And the resulting products, he says, should find applications globally: “These technologies can be deployed in places that have very little infrastructure.”

MIT has many people “who are really great at data collection and analysis,” Berger says. “The question is what do you do with it.” This new alliance, he adds, should help get the fruits of MIT research into production as “something that can change how we think about the world.”

Taken from David L. Chandler, Philips establishes alliance with MIT