Smart-Lighting in Hospital Room Adjusts Automatically, Will Help Study Impacts on Health

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A new smart lighting testbed installed at the University of Mexico Health Center (UNMHC) by the Center for Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC), headquartered at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), will enable investigators to study sleep-wake disorders and light’s effects on disorders such as depression and Parkinson’s disease.



The testbed will enable studies about how controlled lighting impacts human health. The room provides researchers with feedback on variables from illumination spectral intensity to body temperature and patient activity. Potential research areas include neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, post-operative delirium, and light’s impact on bipolar disorder and chemotherapy patients.


The system developed by the ERC can collect feedback on variables ranging from the number and position of room occupants to the test subject’s sleep and wake patterns, and it can even alert a nurse’s station if a patient falls. This feature has the added benefit of enabling monitoring for safety without using cameras, protecting patients’ privacy in hospitals or a nursing home setting.

 The lighting testbed integrates sensors, lighting controls, and spectrally tunable luminaires in a unique combination. The lights can be programmed to provide different spectral content and intensity. The sensors constantly monitor the light in the room and provide feedback for maintaining and controlling the light. Once the lighting is set to the preferred specifications, the lights automatically adjust to maintain a balance of the desired lighting spectrum and intensity over the course of the day. The ERC’s technology transfer to this hospital setting holds tremendous promise to improve medicine’s understanding of how light impacts patients and how to use those findings to improve mental, behavioral, and other health issues.

The computer-controlled lighting system was designed with products from ERC industry members Telelumen, Heptagon, and Austria Microsystems. The system mimics the diurnal and seasonal variations of natural outdoor light, and can be customized to provide light with qualities to treat sleep-wake disorders and medical problems such as depression.