Smart Stargazing in Genk


The Belgian city of Genk in Limburg recently switched on a fabulous new civic lighting installation called “Genker Ster” (Genk Star), designed by creative lighting and visual design practice Paining with Light.

The permanent lighting installation was the brainchild of Genk Mayor Wim Dries. The design – comprising the 275 stars – was chosen both for its aesthetic, smart technologies, innovation and functionality; involving close consultation via Painting with Light’s creative director Luc Peumans and his team.

Each Star contains 2,064 LEDs which can change colour, twinkle and be programmed to create multiple effects.

“It’s a great honour to be asked to imagine and deliver an active, living and sustainable contribution to life in Genk using the art form I know and love. I hope it will engage people and add to the bustle and energy of the city,” stated Luc.

Every pixel of each star contains two LED packages. The first is RGB for a full range of saturated colours and the second is a combination of warm and cold whites and amber … for a comprehensive array of authentic-looking whites. These are also ideal for the cosy, golden amber glow required for the Christmas season.

The installation utilises a unique control system developed by Alkatech, with adaptability at its heart. Every LED pixel in each Star can be individually controlled to display around 270 trillion colours and is sent data via a cloud-based server, which is synchronised by the internet clock.

Data is sent via a 4G SIM card embedded in the Star, and can be accessed locally or remotely via LedNet, a control platform devised by Alkatech as a potential SmartCity comms protocol. This can also be used for other tasks like monitoring air quality or activating / accessing other devices.

The LedNet devices can receive instructions via Ethernet, WIFI or – in this case – SIM card, and they can be programmed via a calendar app and also support live streaming. The City of Genk can control and change / update the calendar App via smartphone or web page as needed.

Art-Net compatibility means a LedNet controlled system can be integrated into an entertainment lighting system that might be installed temporarily for a special concert or a festival staged in one of the city’s public spaces so the Stars can be integrated and run as part of their light show.

With the exception of the LEDs, all elements in this project have been created, developed, designed and invented in Belgium, with 80% of that ‘Belgian’ DNA coming from the Limburg region itself.

Luc concluded: “A system like this can add value and great vibes to any city, space or place for that matter! I can envision many future uses for this technology including theme parks, visitor attractions and all types of built environments”.