SSL controls are central theme of Strategies in Light Europe Investor Forum

While Digital Lumens focused its SIL Europe presentation on adaptive controls as expected, it was surprising to hear both Dialight and Xicato make lighting networks and controls a central theme of their Investor Forum presentations.

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During the day-long Investor Forum that took place on the first day of the Strategies in Light (SIL) Europe 2013 conference, adaptive controls for solid-state lighting (SSL) was the most regularly recurring theme — even from speakers from which that message was unexpected. The presenters ranged from small to large companies looking for investment support, spanning the startup to public-market stages. But established mid-size LED-centric companies Xicato, Dialight, and Digital Lumens made the strongest statements on controls.

Dialight, for example, plays in specialty SSL markets where the number of competitors is limited yet the market opportunity is substantial. One sector that the company focuses on is lighting for hazardous locations, such as in manufacturing applications where chemicals are present or even on food-production lines where lighting must withstand pressure washing each day.

There is certainly no reason that hazardous locations can't leverage dimming for maximizing energy savings, but that feature would not be top of mind for the application. Mark Fryer, group finance director at Dialight, said that SSL products with integrated controls comprise 10–20% of the company's sales today, but that the figure is ramping steeply.

When questioned on the cost, Fryer said that adding controls impacts the bill of materials by 10%. But about product pricing, Fryer said, "We price to pay back and we are looking to give you a two-year payback."

Based on the payback goal, Fryer said that Dialight could probably charge customers a 33% premium for products with integrated controls and still meet the two-year goal. But he added that Dialight would likely split the differential between cost and pricing with its customers.

Xicato plans controls

Xicato is another company for which controls have been a secondary topic. Xicato is focused on high-quality lighting. CEO Menko Deroos said the company enables museum-quality SSL for applications such as retail and hospitality. Our recent feature article on LED modules provides more background on the company.

Luminaire makers have always been able to add dimming technology to Xicato modules via the driver implementation for new product designs. But Xicato plans to launch integrated controls in its standard modular form factors at Light+Building next year, according to Deroos.

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Xicato XLM 80 module for linear applications

Deroos said, "Lighting is joining the Internet of things." But he also waved a caution flag, saying, "The challenge that we have is not to give it away to the IT industry." Deroos believes that the lighting industry should profit from the proliferation of networks and controls. Moreover, he added, that the lighting industry needs to "own the experience" to ensure that customers have a positive experience.

Digital Lumens, of course, sees controls and networks as part of every project since the company has sold connected lighting systems since inception. We have a recent interview with CEO Tom Pincince on the topic. At SIL Europe, Pincince said, "The future of lighting is intelligent. The future is here today."

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