SIL Europe speakers describe the path forward for LEDs and SSL

Nov. 19, 2015
While LED-based lighting has gained a significant foothold around the globe, the industry must move to new forms and technology platforms to realize the full potential of SSL, according to speakers at Strategies in Light Europe.

While LED-based lighting has gained a significant foothold around the globe, the industry must move to new forms and technology platforms to realize the full potential of SSL, according to speakers at Strategies in Light Europe.

On the first day of the main conference at Strategies in Light (SIL) Europe, co-located at London's ExCel Center with LuxLive, keynote- and plenary-session speakers described the state of the LED and solid-state lighting (SSL) industries and suggested the best routes forward for maximum success with LEDs. The advice included recommendations that lighting manufacturers develop new form factors, invest in connected lighting, and pursue opportunities in melding lighting into the fabric of buildings to improve the experience for users.

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First up was Klaus Vambersky, executive vice president of Zumtobel Group, who substituted for CEO Ulrich Schumacher due to illness. In positioning the progress of the lighting industry leveraging SSL technology, Vambersky used an analogy based on the mobile phone industry that should give some major lighting manufacturers pause for concern. SSL adoption was said to be in a second phase, in a similar phase where Nokia once stood as the clear leader in the mobile phone market before later being usurped by the likes of Apple and Google.

Vambersky was not so much suggesting that such IT-centric upstarts will usurp the lighting industry, although as we covered after the US SIL event this year, companies such as Cisco have significant interest in the lighting space. But Vambersky said the existing lighting manufacturers are at a point where they have some successful SSL products selling well, but revenue growth is stagnant and in need of innovation to spur growth.

The SSL industry must move to a third phase, according to Vambersky. That phase will see new luminaire form factors unlike the prior lamp-based designs and a transition to smart lighting and networks. He said lighting companies need to think more like semiconductor companies to remain successful.

Another keynoter, Massimiliano Guzzini, vice president of iGuzzini in Italy, continued along a similar theme. He said lighting affects the ways in which we socialize, perceive and construct our environments, and navigate through them. Innovations in lighting can therefore improve the human experience and LEDs enable many innovations. Guzzini used examples to make his point, including how LED lighting has enhanced public enjoyment of treasured artwork such as Da Vinci's The Last Supper.

The final keynote speaker, Dominiek Plancke, CEO of Philips Lighting's professional business group, focused on the challenges facing the lighting industry in the next decade, noting that there will be 10 billion additional sockets by 2025. Moreover, he said we need to be increasingly cognizant of an aging population as people live longer.

Indeed, Plancke said innovation in lighting and design can provide visual, biological, and emotional benefits to humans and that potential equates to opportunity for manufacturers. He pointed out that LEDs are the only path to realize such lighting systems, and networks and controls are crucial to delivering such capabilities in an energy-efficient manner.

Moving into the plenary session, Andrew Parker, strategic marketing director for smart lighting at Schneider Electric France, discussed the need for integration of SSL systems with other building management systems. Because lighting is ubiquitous in the built environment, Parker said it represents the best option to serve as a network backbone and data-gathering focal point for total building management. But the industry today lacks the cooperation and standardization needed to meld the disparate systems, according to Parker. The situation equates to challenges but also opportunities.

Zoltan Koltai, EMEA technology director from GE Lighting, closed the plenary session with a focus on smart cities and the role that SSL and networks play in such a future. As GE has advocated repeatedly, outdoor SSL with sensors offers the avenue toward data mining and analysis that can yield a range of new services for the public. See our GE video interview from LightFair for some examples, and watch for our upcoming feature from the Street and Area Lighting Conference for more examples.

Koltai reviewed a number of the early GE installations of smart outdoor lighting, and made the point that there is such a thing as outdoor human-centric lighting (HCL) just as the HCL term is used so broadly in indoor applications. A key lesson GE has learned is that outdoor networked SSL projects need to be conceived in a manner to connect people as opposed to connecting lights.