Why is Apple starting to patent light fittings?

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Apple has been granted a patent for the ceiling lighting system it has developed for its new-look stores in a move that has again raised the issue of the company’s intentions in the lighting market.

Apple has been granted a patent for the ceiling lighting system it has developed for its new-look stores in a move that has again raised the issue of the company’s intentions in the lighting market.

The US Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple US Patent No. 9,217,247 for its new illuminated ceilings, which will be the showpiece feature of its next-generation stores. One of the first in the world to sport the new look is the company’s outlet in Brussels. The fully-illuminated LED ceiling is interspersed with narrow linear lighting troughs which include spotlights and other services, a design that is not wholly unfamiliar to lighting professionals working in the retail sector.

Apple’s retail team believes uniform lighting offers the best way to showcase its technology products. The troughs can accommodate cameras, speakers, alarms, fire suppression systems and, it’s speculated, the company’s iBeacon Bluetooth transmitters, which would allow customer tracking, in-store location, payments and marketing push notifications.

While it’s not unusual for Apple to patent innovations outside its core computer technologies – after all, the stores’ famous glass staircases are protected by copyright law – the patenting of a luminaire design raises fears in the lighting industry that Apple has long-term ambitions for the sector.

It’s known that the company has a lighting research team for instance, and lighting control firms are fearful of being disintermediated by a world dominated by the so-called ‘Internet of Things’, where connected IP-enabled devices such as luminaires and lamps can be controlled by smart phones, smart watches and tablets.

  • The Internet of Things and Lighting will be the subject of a special session, incorporating presentations and debates, at the LuxLive Middle East 2016 exhibition and conference in Abu Dhabi on 13 April. Entry is free – for more information and to register, visitwww.luxlive.ae

Picture: Julian Vanbelle

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