The transition from conventional incandescent and fluorescent lighting to LED lighting over the past two decades has been dramatic. While durability and energy efficiency drove the adoption of LED technology, the next generation of LED lighting will bring a more human touch.

Up until the last two centuries, 90 percent of humans’ waking time was spent outside. Now only about 10 percent is spent outdoors. The time spent indoors is usually with the lighting set at one level, which is not consistent with human circadian rhythms — the physical, mental and behavioral changes that occur over the course of a 24-hour cycle.

Influenced by neuroscience research and studies of how daylight has impacted human evolution, lighting engineers have pioneered human-centric lighting, an emerging approach that recognizes how light affects people’s short- and long-term alertness, sleep, mood, visual acuity, perception, productivity and general well-being.

With this approach, lighting engineers take into account how tunability (i.e., dimming and color changing), specialized fixed spectral content, candlelight and firelight affect the human condition. Engineered with a human-centric approach, the latest lighting technologies “mimic” natural light to create ideal indoor conditions by factoring in light intensity, spectrum, duration and time of day.

Researchers have determined that human-centric lighting in a home can reduce sleeping disorders.  With greater alertness during the day, workers are more productive and efficient, and students can improve their concentration levels and cognitive performance. A recent study of classrooms applying human-centric lighting found significant improvements in test results, with error rates dropping by 45 percent and cognitive speed improving by nine percent.

As a company committed to safety, sustainability and innovation, UL hosted the “Full of Light Experience” event in Milan on April 15 to bring attention to human-centric lighting and its merits. Dozens of professionals from lighting technologists and manufacturers, to architects and designers, gathered at the event to explore this next generation of lighting.

Overall, lighting in schools, homes and public places can make everyday life more livable and help people achieve a better quality of life. Researchers estimate that LED lights will comprise the majority of lighting spaces by 2020, enabling human-centric lighting to become standard in homes, businesses, schools, hospitals and elsewhere. As such, consumers, manufacturers and purchasers should explore the positive effects of lighting and how they can integrate the latest “human-centric” technologies into their environments.