Osram still in the general illumination game, as it helps light Shenzhen’s massive exhibition center

Aug. 10, 2020
Siteco is gone and Lightelligence is nowhere in sight, but the “high-tech photonics” company still does lighting.

Every time they try to get out, someone pulls them back in. That’s how it feels with Osram in the general illumination business, as the company completed another lighting job in China even as the general messaging from Munich headquarters continues to suggest the company is exiting that line of work.

Osram announced recently that it has installed more than 100,000 indoor LED lights at the sprawling Shenzhen World Exhibition Center, which has reopened with COVID-19 procedures in place. It had first opened last November prior to the pandemic, and, with a planned expansion, is set to become the world’s largest such venue.

The brand-new center makes considerable use of natural light as well as artificial. It currently has 400,000m2 (about 4.3 million ft2) of indoor space, with 16 halls. Osram is one of several lighting vendors providing indoor illumination in a number of areas including halls, a media center, a ballroom, a lecture hall, and a stadium.

Such an expansive installation seems curious for a company that for several years has been emphasizing that it is a high-technology photonics outfit focused on chip-level LEDs and lasers applied across a wide range of applications.

That shift has come with a big de-emphasis of general illumination, including the sell-off a year ago of Siteco to Munich investment firm Stern Stewart Capital, a luminaires outfit that was the centerpiece of Osram’s commercial lighting endeavors. In early 2017, Osram sold its bulb business — included as part of LEDvance — to a Chinese consortium. In between those two giant steps away from general illumination, it also sold off its conventional lighting services business in the US, Sylvania Lighting Solutions.

So, while general illumination has largely fallen from the thrust of the brand messaging, it has not altogether vanished.

‘‘Osram has been transforming into a high-tech corporate in recent years and the general illumination business is not the core of our business,” a spokesperson reaffirmed for LEDs Magazine. ‘‘At the same time, we will also strive to meet customer demand in lighting and illumination.’’

The installation comes less than a year after Osram completed a large-scale lighting project in China, at the new Beijing Daxing International Airport.

“Osram is on its way to transforming to a high-tech company,” a separate spokesperson reiterated. “In Asia we still also sell some luminaires as a product business, as the Asian luminaires activities were not sold together with Siteco — the buyer focused on the European activities.”

The luminaires and central controls at Shenzhen World Exhibition Center came from a part of the company known as Osram Traxon e:cue, the first spokesperson said. Osram did not supply any Internet of Things (IoT) functionality. IoT lighting uses lights and the lighting infrastructure to house sensors and communication chips that collect data and that can send data to the cloud for analysis. Vendors are marketing IoT lighting for a wide range of uses including improved lighting control and maintenance, wayfinding, asset tracking, in-store marketing, space analysis, and others.

General market uptake has been slower than the lighting industry would like.

Osram’s overarching IoT scheme, Lightelligence, has all but faded from view. The company continues to decline to provide LEDs with an update on its status.

With or without Lightelligence, Osram is still generally offering IoT components, including its new HubSense controls and commissioning system based on Bluetooth wireless, as well as Zigbee wireless controls.

Osram’s shift away from general illumination and into a photonics emphasis fits well with its recent acquisition by Austrian sensor company ams. Osram is developing and marketing LEDs and laser chips for sensing applications including security, facial recognition, health monitoring, autonomous vehicles, photography, virtual and augmented reality, and more.

Meanwhile, it is continuing with lamp products for more specialized uses, such as automotive headlamps (a big part of the business and one which is suffering in the general economic slump) horticultural luminaires, and theater lighting.

It is also cranking up production of UV-C (ultraviolet C-band) lamps for disinfection of the novel coronavirus and other pathogens.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

For up-to-the-minute LED and SSL updates, why not follow us on Twitter? You’ll find curated content and commentary, as well as information on industry events, webcasts, and surveys on our LinkedIn Company Page and our Facebook page.

About the Author

Mark Halper | Contributing Editor, LEDs Magazine, and Business/Energy/Technology Journalist

Mark Halper is a freelance business, technology, and science journalist who covers everything from media moguls to subatomic particles. Halper has written from locations around the world for TIME Magazine, Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, CBS, Wired, and many others. A US citizen living in Britain, he cut his journalism teeth cutting and pasting copy for an English-language daily newspaper in Mexico City. Halper has a BA in history from Cornell University.