Insights / Our COVID-19 Response

Light touch for COVID-19

02 APRIL 2020

It feels a strange time to be writing about intelligent lighting in the middle of pandemic and yet there are strong reasons to believe that innovative lighting will be part of the fight against coronavirus. 

I’ve been part of a Kainos team that released a new COVID-19 service for the UK government this week – but Kainos is already working on medium and long-term solutions. One of those could be provided by one of our newest partners, Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS). 

IGS are one of the UK’s leaders in smart grid technology and have built products for smart farming and smart lighting. IGS was started to devise a sustainable smart farming solution to reduce food air miles and ensure security of food supply – both suddenly critical issues. IGS’ flexible lighting grid turned out to have may use cases beyond agriculture, once coupled with an IoT control system at the network edge. Kainos’ IoT Practice has been helping with some aspects of the platform, drawing on our experience of smart lighting in cities and the Azure IoT stack. 

Because the grid can have additional sensors and new lighting configurations easily added (without requiring specialist electrical knowledge), it’s an ideal solution where temporary re-configuration is needed. The first use cases are in retail – for adaptive in-store lighting, which is also more energy-efficient. Another example of a temporary
re-configuration would be to provide separately-controlled ultra-violet lights – specifically UV-C. One reason to do this is to cleanse premises of the coronavirus. While I’m not aware of conclusive research on COVID-19, most pathogens are killed by UV-C (provided that the virus is not shaded from the light). 

This approach is being tested in China to de-contaminate public buses for example and UV-C could provide part of a wider and longer-term response. As new pathogens appear, we will have to think about more innovative defensive measures to help protect people. 

Of course, UV-C is damaging to eyesight and causes skin cancer (it is both carcinogenic and cataractogenic), which is why coupling this kind of
anti-viral lighting to a control system which ensures it is being deployed in an unoccupied space is essential. When I started our IoT Practice, I never anticipated we’d be looking at these types of solutions, but it goes to show how pervasive IoT technology is becoming – and the strange times in which we find ourselves. 

The logical next step would be to link lighting control to data about the prevalence and risk around the virus, which brings me back to the task at hand this week. Colleagues will be blogging shortly on the COVID-19 work we’ve been doing to support the NHS and other parts of UK Government at this critical time.