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Tech sheds light on businesses

Big changes have been made in the area of lighting, and businesses and local authorities are embracing the developments.





Technology (general)

(CNN) -- It's more than 125 years since the electric light bulb was invented, putting peoples' fears of the dark to bed with the flick of a switch.

Nowadays advances in technology mean that lighting can be controlled remotely, offering businesses several subtle advantages.

Global CEO of Philips Lighting Theo van Deursen told CNN that lighting levels were extremely important to retailers and they served a purpose beyond just helping people to see what they are buying.

He said store owners were taking advantage of advances in lighting technology to draw shoppers in, attracting attention to their goods -- with the intention of persuading them to spend more.

"Atmosphere can be created very well with lighting and you can completely change a shop or a city with lighting. It is much more than a functional means of lighting," van Deursen said.

European CEO of Philips Lighting Marc de Jong told CNN that lighting levels could transform a low-budget grocery store into a more sophisticated outlet.

"With new light, the products in a shop feel like they are in a delicatessen shop."

But lights that provide commercial advantages are not the only area where progress has been made -- the environment is also becoming a winner.

A new type of light bulb is increasingly replacing traditional incandescent lamps, allowing life spans of up to 100,000 hours, compared to the current 15,000.

The technology that allows Philips to do this -- namely gas discharge lamps -- means that less heat is created and therefore less energy used.

"The striking thing is that if you look to lighting in general then you would apply tomorrow all the most efficient light sources in every light point in the world, then you would fulfill easily all Kyoto requirements," de Jong said.

Earlier this year, Philips put up the first streetlamps that use light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which last four times longer than normal street lighting, in the central Dutch town of Ede.

With 50,000 light hours, LED lamps do not have to be changed for 12 years when lit for an average 11 to 12 hours a day. Because LEDs are made of solid organic materials, they are smaller, more versatile and less vulnerable than today's glass lamps filled with gases.

The development means that the lifespan of a streetlamp is no longer limited by the lamp, but by the pole, according to Philips.

The lamps contain yellow and white LEDs, which allow for brighter or softer tones according to differences in seasons and the time of night.

Until recently, LEDs were used as indicators on electronic goods, bicycles and cars, but technical developments have made them so bright they can now be used for any normal lighting situation.

Gas-filled streetlamps last an average 12,000 hours, and replacing them is costly and also hampers traffic, especially in hard-to-reach places such as tunnels.

LED streetlamps are twice as expensive as current street lighting with a similar design, but this is compensated for by the longer lifespan, Philips product manager Bram Lansink said.

Now, just across the border in Belgium, a town called Turnhout has become the guinea pig for Philips' latest lighting innovation.

The benefits are greater than just energy savings according to town mayor Marcel Hendrickx.

"It gives a feeling of safety and that's very important," he said.

"Most people in Belgium, in Flanders, don't feel that safe but in Turnhout it is different. There is less crime in Turnhout. It's very beautiful, it's totally different because of these yellow street lights."

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