The Science

Blue Iris Labs™ precisely measures spectral, biological, and circadian light systems with easy-to-install in-room spectral sensors to impact real-world environments.

How Light Impacts Health and Well-Being

Over the past two decades, scientists have established a compelling picture of how light impacts our health. They have shown how lighting can impact our circadian rhythms—and how disruptions to these rhythms are linked to poor sleep and performance, as well as an increased risk for diseases such as diabetes and cancer. This is still an active area of research and new discoveries are being made regularly.

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is a major subcontractor and key collaborator in our current NIH-funded grant. In this TEDMed talk, LRC Director Dr. Mariana Figueiro reveals surprising facts about the effects of light — its presence, its absence, and its patterns — on human health.

About 24-Hour Circadian Rhythms

Humans have a “biological clock” cycle within the hypothalamus in our brains that is approximately 24 hours long. Also known as our “circadian rhythm,” it regulates our internal biological activities, including our sleep patterns; wakefulness; behaviors; physiological, mental, and emotional processes.

Commonly altered by “jet lag,” extended travel, internal and external environmental factors, the synchrony of our circadian rhythms can become misaligned. When it does, we have to adjust to get back into synch. And, scientists have been able to show how light intensity and light spectrum can support — or disrupt — our circadian rhythms.

Measuring in the Lab vs. in the Real World

Most of these light and health studies have been conducted in highly controlled laboratory environments where researchers can carefully control and monitor conditions to pinpoint causal relationships between specific lighting conditions and specific health outcomes.

However, these studies are rarely conducted in real-world applications where lighting conditions are not as easy to control or monitor. Consequently, we don’t completely understand the lighting conditions people experience in typical applications, or how variations in lighting in these more complicated spaces impact human health.

The Challenges of Measuring Light

Measuring light is quite different from measuring temperature. For the latter, you can more or less put a sensor anywhere to get “the answer” to how hot or cold it is there. But measuring light is much more complex; instead of one answer, there are typically many, depending on what particular measurement questions are used. Light can:
  • Vary by intensity.
  • Vary by spectrum.
  • Come from different directions.
  • Come from small and intense sources (like ceiling lights) or from large and diffuse sources (like reflections off walls).
These measurement complexities are a big reason why there are very few studies of light exposure in real-world applications.

A New Tool for Lighting Field Measurements

Blue Iris Labs currently has received a multi-year grant from NIH (the National Institutes of Health) to develop lighting systems that positively impact the health of Alzheimer’s patients, and those with dementia and sleep-related disorders.

The NIH project required accurate, yet easy-to-deploy measurement systems to determine how light levels and spectrum are experienced by Alzheimer’s patients. We found that no such measurement devices currently exist, so, as part of this project, we have successfully built systems from the ground up.

Our approach encompasses our decades of expertise in lighting science and in capturing field measurements of lighting systems. Blue Iris Labs is also built on a team with deep understanding of the tools and techniques available today in wireless communications, embedded systems, cloud computing and big data analytics.

These measurement systems are now being made available to researchers, lighting professionals, building scientists, and others to further our understanding of the impact of lighting on living things, and beyond.

Validated by NIH and in trial at the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine, Blue Iris Labs is the first and only company to provide a system to be able to precisely measure circadian light levels and spectrum with easy-to-install in-room spectral sensors across a variety of real-world environments.

Take a Deeper Dive into the Science of Circadian Lighting

For a more detailed discussion of the science of circadian lighting, click here. This link provides more information on:
  • An overview of how light impacts our sleep and our circadian rhythms
  • How these impacts people with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementia
  • How circadian light and circadian stimulus can be measured
  • A detailed list of technical references on these and related topics