Sapphire entrants and winners map LED and SSL revolution (MAGAZINE)

March 9, 2017
Our third annual Sapphire Awards Gala took place on Mar. 1 at the City National Grove of Anaheim and a good time was had by all.  

Our third annual Sapphire Awards Gala took place on Mar. 1 at the City National Grove of Anaheim and a good time was had by all. The enthusiastic crowd was great and enjoyed the comedy of Tyler Boeh and the music of the Doug Taylor Trio. Still, the stars of the evening were the innovators of the LED and solid-state lighting (SSL) sectors and their products that took home Sapphire trophies. You'll find a complete list here. But I took one other thought away from the night. The entrants, finalists, and winners in the 2017 Sapphire program very much represent the evolution of the LED and SSL sectors.

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The themes of the night fall into several categories including better quality light, all-new form factors, support for smart connected lighting and the Internet of Things (IoT), and specialization in design tied to specific applications. Advancement along the vectors is happening based on the inherent characteristics of SSL sources that have freed the lighting industry from the shackles of the lamp. Let's consider some examples.

The move toward smart lighting and the IoT is happening although we have a long way to go to projected levels of success. Still, in just three years the Sapphire entries have evolved such that smart products are spread across numerous categories. While we did still segregate some of the entries into a specific smart lighting category, and Echelon was a worthy winner, the fundamentals of smart connected lighting are being baked into SSL-industry products.

Consider LED drivers. The winning entry from Fulham includes an option for connectivity, as did other finalists such as the Acuity EldoLED product that targets tunable lighting designs. The same can be said of luminaires where many of the products can be equipped with autonomous or network-based controls.

Innovation in form is another area where the industry is finally leveraging SSL sources after years of talking about it. The Fluxwerx Fold is one of several luminaires from that company that hides the LED light engine, sports sleek style, and still delivers excellent beam control and overall photometric performance. In one of the outdoor categories, Eaton used light-guide technology in the Invue Arbor portfolio to deliver post-top style beyond what we've seen in the past.

SSL sources further enable lighting product developers to address the varying layers of lighting cherished by lighting designers and specifiers. Axis Lighting was able to sculpt light using its Sculpt luminaire and deliver both ambient and task or accent light in one sleek linear fixture. The trend continues even at the light engine level with Plessey delivering directional beams from incredibly thin modules.

Specialization may be the most identifiable trend. We passed the point of one LED for all applications years ago. But granularity of design is happening at amazing levels. The Lumileds SunPlus LEDs intended specifically for horticultural lighting are a perfect example.

The question is, can the industry progress with business models that pay the price of the innovation we see in the industry? We believe the answer is yes. Our next issue will have detailed coverage of Strategies in Light week that explores business opportunities and models.

Maury Wright,


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