Guiding light

Being greeted on entry to a building by its carpet is now possible, thanks to a partnership between flooring manufacturer Desso and lighting giant Philips.

Luminous Carpets, launched last year, combines LED units with a specially developed light transmissive carpet that can be used to display text or images on flooring. The product is aimed at commercial buildings, such as hotels, offices and conference centres, as a means of providing signage to help guide people around, including to safety exits.

It can also be utilised to provide personal greetings to visitors, display marketing information at trade shows and important information in meetings, as well as help de-clutter spaces by making information available only when needed.

“We looked at how we could integrate LEDs into the carpet itself, but we found that was very difficult to make, so we developed a solution where we installed an LED unit into the floor and a special carpet on top as a separate element,” said Ed Huibers, sales and marketing director at Philips.

Transmitting images
The carpet is produced by Desso and features a backing that is based on its bitumen-free EcoBase carpet backing, which has been further engineered to allow light to pass through it.

“Normal carpet backing is black, whereas the EcoBase backing is more brownish in colour. For the Luminous Carpets we optimised the EcoBase backing to be really white so that it is translucent enough for the light to travel through it,” explained Huibers.

Luminous Carpets are manufactured as a carpet tile so that the LED unit below can be easily accessed. It is initially available in four textures from Desso’s standard range – Stratos, Pure, Scape and Flow. There are 14 neutral colours available, ranging from white and creams to mochas and greys.

Desso says the tiles meet norms for dimensional stability and flatness to ensure a tight-fitting broadloom all-over effect throughout the carpet’s lifetime. The carpets can be installed on a subfloor to give a completely flat surface, with the cables being routed through ducting and panels.

Installed underneath the carpet tiles, the LEDs are built into enclosed units that are designed to be strong enough to be walked on while still protecting against spillages without overheating. Videos produced by the company show a bucket of water being poured on the system and a car driven over it, to demonstrate its durability.



The LED units can be installed on top of the raised access floors commonly found in offices, or be recessed or routed into concrete floors. It can also be installed in small areas like stairs or heritage locations using an underlay that keeps the tiles flush with non-lit floor areas.

LC Grid is the LED panel used in the system and is comprised of a metal casing with 1,024 LEDs, designed for floor mounting indoors. The company says the LEDs can be addressed separately, which makes it possible to display static and scrolling text on the panel.

“We first developed standardised units which displayed text images all in white and then developed fixed content symbols, which we can manufacture in all colours, for instance for emergency exit path marking, like red arrows,” said Huibers.

Videos can also be displayed, but after developing this functionality for display purposes, the company decided that simple images worked best. “The product should be helping people, we don’t want people to stop in a public building to look at a video,” added Huibers.

Safe passage
The product has currently been specified most successfully for signage applications. According to the company, people have a tendency to be guided by the floor when moving through and interacting with space. In one hotel project, the carpets were programmed to automatically turn on in the night when the occupant steps on the floor, and guide the way with arrows.

Emergency path marking signs are normally located high up on walls, on ceilings and above emergency exit doors. The company contends that these signs can be obscured by rising smoke during a fire, whereas emergency markings when displayed on the floor can give clear exit routes.

Content can be controlled in different ways, depending on the environment. Text and images can be pre-programmed or scheduled by a web-based content management system for branding and other more permanent information like emergency path marking. The system can be managed via laptops, PC or tablets connected to the network.