Professionals must rethink our path to optimum LED lighting

LEDs are opening the way for an incredible amount of innovation in the lighting industry, but a rocky road leads from today to that future potential. Lighting professionals will gather in Las Vegas to chart a path forward.

Disregarding the pitfalls of the past and still remembering the end game, it's time for lighting professionals to get solid-state lighting (SSL) right. Unfortunately, there is no ubiquitous case study or legacy to draw from to help ease this dynamic lighting crossover. The LED Show program, however, can help designers and specifiers navigate the pitfalls of the SSL transition and learn about where the future is heading.

For lack of a better characterization, the lighting of the last century is simple and limited. Intelligent or smart lighting is what society requires for 2014 and moving forward. The controls and benefits of digital circuitry will take SSL to a new level of functionality, efficiency, and feature set.

The successful companies of the future will look very different from the leaders today. New thoughts and integration will allow the lighting industry to grow exponentially in several different directions. "The focus is on the disruption, breakdown, reformation, and evolution of the value chain," affirmed Terry Walsh, president and CEO of Tempo Industries. "Fundamentally, LED lighting technology products cannot be sold, distributed, maintained, or integrated in the same way the traditional legacy products have been handled in the past."

The good news, and bad news

Indeed, LED technology can enable the future hinted at above. But the upstart technology Is disruptive in every way. The semiconductor industry is clashing with the lighting industry and there are lessons to be learned for both constituencies. Moreover, we have an influx of non-lighting people selling lighting fixtures into eager markets, and SSL products remain an immature technology segment.

The illumination novice selling to a buzzword-enthralled facility manager will most definitely create havoc and heartache for all of us down the road. The operations personnel are sure they want LED lighting; they are just not exactly sure why. Once this cheaper, and most likely incorrectly installed, LED product fails, the bad rap falls back on the LED industry as a whole. Thankfully, this exploitation of the low-hanging fruit will be exhausted in a few years and the lighting professionals will be left, once again, correcting and defending the use of SSL.

Voices of the past come to mind. "I will keep America moving forward, always forward — for a better America, for an endless enduring dream and a thousand points of light," said George H. W. Bush. C. S. Lewis wrote, "One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out." Were they speaking about LEDs?

Uniform light is a must

The year 2014 has no place for pixelated light in commercial applications! There, I said it. Sure, there may be an application where it looks cool, but probably not to my retina. Advanced technology is here and plentiful, please use it.

Not to namedrop but Bridgelux, Sharp, Epistar, and several others have successfully moved to chip-on-board (COB) LED packages, and that's one simple avenue toward uniform light. Proper lensing and simple diffusion are two easily attainable ways to defeat the glare of multiple LEDs simply soldered to a circuit board and placed in a metal can or bulb. Think about the end user, not just how many lumens can be squeezed out of the can.

Diarmuid McSweeney, a past president of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), once said, “Never call a lighting instrument, a bulb; those are what you plant in the ground for pretty flowers in the spring". The LED lamp is what is required for a table lamp or lighting fixture. Although not a technical resource, Wikipedia calls incandescent light “bulbs” and describes compact-fluorescent- and LED-based products as “lamps.” The description is more about shape than function. We have gotten past the novelty of LED lighting and on to calculated lighting within proper applications.

Aesthetics are critical

Did we not learn anything from the previous regime of ice-cream-cone-shaped CFLs and clunky cobbled together fluorescent PAR lamps? "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change," said Charles Darwin.

Rather than rant about what is wrong, let us focus on the positive side of things. LED lighting is a game changer for our industry. We have the power to do amazing things with our solid-state friend. Every organization is a living ecosystem and therefore must continuously adapt if it wishes to remain relevant or viable in its environment. This statement makes the popularity of the adapt or die axiom truer than ever.

We as lighting professionals have a duty to err on the side of caution, yet innovate for the greater cause. SSL technology is not only an exciting and profitable industry, but also a technical marvel of the century that we can all be proud to call our own.

Looking forward

Digital controls are native to and indeed a cousin of LED-based SSL. The technologies speak the same language and follow the same electronic principals. Dimming, switching, passing through data, and Wi-Fi control are simple and attainable attributes for LED lighting. The technology to implement these features is here and plentiful.

David Rubin, president of ETI Solid State Lighting, states, "While solid-state lighting continues to show promise in reducing our country’s energy consumption, integrated controls in solid-state lighting applications can take energy reduction to the next level in addition to other benefits lighting designers have craved for years.”

The challenge is now placed upon the innovators, whether in a garage or in a multinational facility creating these products. Our customers, the end users, are ready and actually expect these characteristics in our 21st century world.

If George Jetson had them, shouldn’t we too have them by now?

The innovators that can both make the transition to SSL a reality and capture our vision of the future will gather in Las Vegas in a few weeks. Come join the discussion.

More in Home