One Minute Wonder

Lightlog was kindly asked to feature in a “One Minute Wonder” short film for Tech for Good TV, a Nesta supported project documenting people, communities, industries and institutions using technology to create social and civic change.

We arranged for Filmmaker Scott Willis to come along to the Edinburgh Hack Lab where we had a busy afternoon setting up and shooting many of the stages of Lightlog development and assembly. Thanks to the folks at the lab for not minding the disruption while we were filming. A day or two later Scott had edited together the final cut you see below. Thanks Scott! And thanks all who helped make this happen. Hope you enjoy it!

Interview with Project Ginsberg

In an interview with Project Ginsberg, I describe Lightlog and why a daily balance of light is important for mental health.

“Gary Martin talks with our Project Manager Lucy about the Light Log project which is part of Ginsberg thanks to Alt-w funding from New Media Scotland partners. The Light Log project is about creating low cost wearable devices that record ambient light levels and colours from a person’s environment. The data is visualised to show how exposure to too little or too much light may be affecting someone’s mood and energy levels. We imagine that in the future people using Ginsberg can use a Light Log device to record their light intake information along with any other personal information they choose.”

The full audio interview from soundcloud can be played here:

Winter Solstice

Lux chart

December 21st marks the northern hemisphere’s astronomical beginning of winter, both the shortest day and the longest night of the year. In Edinburgh, Scotland, that means only 6 hours 56 minutes of daylight and a long 17 hours 4 minutes of night. Even with good weather — and we were lucky get several hours of blue sky and sun this time — the angle of the sun is so low to the horizon that its rays are relatively weak. I measured approximately 40,000 lx of direct sunlight near midday. As you can see from the lux chart above that is still a good level of light versus staying indoors, so do get out for some fresh air and a walk if you can!

The good news is that each successive day will begin growing ever longer and brighter as our planet continues its arc around our star, tilting northern hemisphere dwellers back towards the sun, giving us all a better chance at catching some of that extra day light. Happy winter solstice!

Measuring Colour

Colour temperature vs. tint

With seasonal affective disorder and winder blues, light lux (the total light energy in the human visible spectrum), is the main component needed to be measured and tracked over time. However, recording the light colour components also has important benefits for analysis. First, it allows improved automatic tagging for light environment types, where the colour temperature and colour tint allow a better characterisation of the kind of light you’re being exposed to (e.g. fluorescent office lighting vs. natural outdoor light, or bright but overcast days vs. clear blue sky days). This extra information can be used to generate high level, dashboard like views of each day, week, month and year – do you know how many hours of direct sunshine you had this week? The second use of colour data is in measuring the amount of the shorter wavelength (blue) light you are exposed to. Studies suggest blue light is more effective at triggering cells in your eye’s retina responsible for maintaining your circadian rhythm – stimulating serotonin production and inhibiting melatonin, keeping you alert and clear during waking hours. Avoiding blue wavelengths for a few hours before you try and sleep allows melatonin levels to naturally rise, helping you have restful, refreshing sleep.

Autumn Equinox

Here in Scotland the days have been growing noticeably shorter as Autumn approaches. Today, September 22nd, at about quarter to 9pm, the Earth will reach that special place in its orbit where the Sun passes over the equator. With Scotland’s latitude is between 54ºN and 60ºN, the diagram below shows that from this point on until March 20th 2014, our day light hours will be shorter than our nights. For those of us sensitive to the ever shortening amount of light it is important to make the most of the available sun and resist an ancient urge to hibernate. The Autumn Equinox is here!

Daylight hours vs. latitude vs. time of year