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Nowatt Lighting is a French startup focusing on off-grid, solar-powered light fixtures.

Nowatt has built intelligence into their products that seems to go beyond most “dumb” solar-powered lights, with multi-channel LED engines and app-based control including parametric-based scenarios that can understand intended usage, geographic position, etc. So far they have a few fixtures in their catalogue, including a spotlight, bollard, and a novel direct-view decorative pixel that includes mesh-based live DMX control.

As battery and solar technologies continue to advance at a rapid pace, making better designed, more “smart” solar-powered fixtures helps take this category into wider professional applications. I can think of many scenarios, from resort lighting to remote parks to even urban facades and parks that could use lighting to enhance the visitor experience for a few hours after-dark, but which don’t necessarily need constant lighting all night nor could reasonably afford the infrastructure investment or disruption of pulling conduit and wiring.

I think the glass pixel product especially has a wide-ranging future for large-scale facade lighting. Retrofitting facades with the bulky and costly electrical and data wiring for traditional DMX-based LED effects lighting is ridiculously expensive and impractical. Simply bolting-on self contained solar-powered, mesh-networked fixtures is not that unreasonable (at most, a custom bracket will be required to interface with the particular curtain-wall extrusions…but nowadays with 3D printing, that is fairly cheap and easy).

In fact, me and a colleague at Philips proposed this very concept back in 2011 to create a dramatic sparkling effect across the facade of the Royal Philips headquarters building in Amsterdam. We investigated the concept with Philips Research in Eindhoven. But ultimately the management team decided on a less risky (but certainly not less costly) installation of Color Kinetics products lighting up the structural columns inside the building (because an exterior installation on the facade would have been prohibitively costly).

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