Lightfair International Gets Smart

At Lightfair International 2013, it seemed only a handful of companies had a booth with a smart lighting solution - Philips, TCP, and Samsung were among the more recognizable ones that I noticed. Fast forward one year and it seems that smart lighting could be found at almost every booth; even the non-name brand booths seemed to have some sort of solution. Whether this was wireless controls to dim lights or change color through your smart phone - or even gesture control...

Jun 10th, 2014
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At Lightfair International 2013, it seemed only a handful of companies had a booth with a smart lighting solution - Philips, TCP, and Samsung were among the more recognizable ones that I noticed. Fast forward one year and it seems that smart lighting could be found at almost every booth; even the non-name brand booths seemed to have some sort of solution. Whether this was wireless controls to dim lights or change color through your smart phone - or even gesture control – companies are realizing that, in addition to providing energy efficient, high performing, cheap LED lighting, smart lighting is quickly becoming almost a standard specification for their products. It seems that lighting companies have clocked on to the math that providing 50,000 hour lamps at the same price as a CFL (or hopefully an incandescent, if I think in the mind of a consumer) means that not only will shipments decrease drastically as more lamps get installed (as replacement cycles increase), but this coupled with fast declining prices mean that revenues will also decrease. With the replacement LED lamp expected to fall below the $5 mark within the next few years, smart lighting is one way to hopefully ensure not only more adoption, but increasing revenues.

But how big is this market, and what protocol is the leader? There didn't seem to be clear winner for the protocol used, but ZigBee, WiFi, and Bluetooth all had a presence in the wireless residential sector; in fact, some companies had open protocols to be compatible with all three. As the market is still very young, most companies didn't want to commit to one protocol to then see a shift towards another. As for how big the market is? In terms of smart light bulbs, this is still very small compared to the total LED lamp market. Major lamp giants have said this is a very small proportion of their lamp revenues, but recognized the importance as the lamp market must move this way in order to survive. And some companies are hoping that smart home lighting will become almost like your other smart gadgets in that you will upgrade every few years when the newest version comes out, but that is still yet to be seen.

For LED luminaires, smart lighting becomes more convincing as most of these are being adopted in commercial and street lighting applications where the lights are turned on for a longer period of time. Power consumption in street lighting can be up to 60% of the municipality’s budget. The average return on investment for an LED street light could be around 8 years, and smart street lighting will reduce this even more. Lighting coupled with color tunability, dimming, and sensors that detect luminosity or occupancy will allow customers to take advantage of even greater energy savings. This should spur adoption and increase revenues not only for lighting manufacturers, but also for LED and semiconductor manufacturers.

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