Smart lighting: Sounds great. But does it work? (MAGAZINE)

End users brought plenty of reality checks and ideas to the recent LuxLive show in London, reports Mark Halper, while the co-located Strategies in Light Europe event featured the enabling technologies that underlie smart SSL.

Feb 19th, 2016
Smart lighting: Sounds great. But does it work? (MAGAZINE)
Smart lighting: Sounds great. But does it work? (MAGAZINE)

End users brought plenty of reality checks and ideas to the recent LuxLive show in London, reports MARK HALPER, while the co-located Strategies in Light Europe event featured the enabling technologies that underlie smart SSL.

There’s nothing like end users to provide reality checks for emerging technologies. And so it was at London’s recent LuxLive 2015 gathering - Europe’s largest annual lighting event - that facilities managers, lighting designers, engineers, and policy makers weighed in on what’s working, what’s not, and with wish lists that could finally usher in the most transformative development in lighting since the incandescent lamp: intelligent, Internet-connected LED lighting. Moreover, the technology that underlies smart solid-state lighting (SSL) was prevalent in the co-located Strategies in Light (SIL) Europe conference and exhibition (Fig. 1).

Interested in more articles & announcements on smart lighting?

For those of you who might have just awakened from a Rip Van Winkle slumber: Intelligent lighting leverages the digital nature of LEDs which, as semiconductors, lend themselves readily to network connectivity. Thus, vendors are pushing the notion of tying everything from ceiling lamps to highway luminaires in to web-based controls and networks that allow individuals and central managers to switch lights on and off, adjust brightness, and even change color and color temperature, all from a remote point via a phone, gadget, computer, or other connected device.

FIG. 1. A lot of the lively discussion at LuxLive and at the co-located Strategies in Light Europe centered around intelligent lighting.
Source: Photographer Katura Jensen via SIL Europe.

Furthermore, embed those lamps, luminaires or their attendant furniture such as lamp posts with a range of sensors, and before you know it, lighting and all of its ubiquity forms the backbone of all-seeing, all-knowing data networks.

Sensors that monitor temperature, air quality, noise, motion, or occupancy, and that keep an eye on traffic, parking, and road conditions can help city managers and building operators to run a more shipshape affair. See our report from the Street and Area Lighting Conference for some examples. They could keep roadways running more efficiently by rerouting vehicles when necessary; they enable faster emergency response as they will highlight trouble spots and hear gunshots quicker; they’ll know exactly when and where to send the salt and grit trucks and snow plows; they’ll know when to turn the heat and lights down or up in an office space, and when and where space is free for hot-desk workers.

And that’s just a few examples. The applications are as broad as the imagination, and have triggered a rush by technology and app developers to hone data collected by lighting networks into useful, meaningful forms for individual and institutional end users. Imagine an app that tells a motorist where the nearest free parking space is, for instance. Or so say the vendors.

Bring it on, but...

But what about the end users, engineers, and architects - the front-liners who could ultimately determine that smart lighting is actually a dumb idea, or who, on the other hand, could indeed discover its brilliance and anoint its glittering future? What do they have to say? Judging by the many lively panel discussions at LuxLive, this much is clear: They are indeed interested in moving lighting beyond its traditional illumination milieu.

“If we’re going to have to put in hundreds of light fittings in a space, why not use them for more than just lights,” said Jeff Shaw, a lighting designer and associate director of Arup, the global bridges-to-buildings-to-railway engineering and design firm based in London. He imagined using LED data and communication capabilities for, among other applications, helping people find their way through large public places like airports and railway stations. Several technologies exist that can communicate with smartphones and provide maps and directions.

Shaw was speaking on a lively panel entitled “The Internet of things, should we believe the hype?” where others shared his bring-it-on attitude. “I find it extraordinary - there are millions and millions and millions of end-source power points that are lights,” enthused Tony Howells, senior policy advisor to the UK government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). “All of them could be integrated with comms. They can be the interface points with all of those other sensors you want.”

Not only do users have the appetite, but some have begun to nibble and are already reporting positive results. Ian Crockford, managing director of Guildford, UK-based infrastructure company Data Techniques, noted that one early adopter at an office building has used data delivered via sensors embedded in the lighting network to realize that only 35% of hot desks were occupied at any one time - information that has led to reassigning the valuable but previously wasted space to other purposes.

Likewise, central London’s Westminster borough has already upgraded the majority of its streetlights into smart units, according to Westminster City Council lighting manager Dave Franks participating in the panel “Is smart streetlighting everything it’s cracked up to be?” Westminster includes many well-known areas such as the West End theater district, Soho, Covent Garden, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, 10 Downing Street, and Mayfair.

But does it all work as advertised? The truth is: Not always.

Hype versus reality

As Franks and others noted, one of the biggest issues that the industry must resolve before intelligent lighting rolls out on a massive scale might not even be a technology matter. Rather, it is the business and legal discussion surrounding ownership of data collected by lighting networks (see sidebar on “Who owns the data?”).

Another issue that is holding back others from moving rapidly into smart lighting is the possibility for security and data breaches that a vastly expanded set of nodes and networks could pose. “There’s got to be some really serious issues in terms of security, both in terms of security of data and security of peoples’ wellbeing, etc.,” said Howells from the UK’s BIS.

That is one reason why lighting companies are often the first to admit that they cannot deploy smart lighting by themselves - that they will need to partner with networking experts from the IT and Internet technology industry. In a sign of changing times, executives from Internet companies were on hand in increasing numbers at LuxLive - reminiscent of how they first started appearing at mobile phone and media confabs a decade or so ago, and where they are now mainstays of those industries. Cisco even presented a keynote at the SIL conference in Las Vegas last February.

“We’re seeing many more sensors being embedded into lights, and I think that’s very exciting,” Akshay Thakur, Cisco’ business development manager for the IoT vertical and solutions group, told an Internet of Things (IoT) panel. “Lighting vendors, luminaire vendors, manufacturers, lighting control companies, have got a very interesting role to play now in what do they do with that data and how do they provide that data with the same level of enterprise security as the normal data that exists in the IT environment. That is what Cisco is very interested in - trying to help make any new device that gets connected onto the building environment secure, safe, and also a scalable network.”

FIG. 2. Panelists from the “Healthier Lighting” discussion agreed that hospitals should use smart LED lighting to support human circadian rhythms, which could help patients recover faster. From left to right: Damian Oatway of Central Manchester NHS Trust; Helen Loomes, Trilux; Alexandra Hammond, Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust; Prof. Debra Skene, University of Surrey.
Source: Photographer Katura Jensen via Lux.

Indeed, two weeks after LuxLive, Cisco struck a deal with Philips to provide secure Power over Ethernet (PoE) lighting.

The overarching issues of data and security aside, intelligent lighting technology itself appears to still be finding its legs, as one might expect for any nascent technology. As Westminster’s Franks reported, while the London borough is nearing the end of a four-year delivery of its smart streetlights, thus far the intelligence has not quite lived up to expectations.

“It’s entry-level smartness, to be honest,” said Franks. “It’s on/off, it’s adaptive, so we can set the lighting levels with that technology.” Westminster had hoped that the system’s intelligence would also monitor the performance and individual lights and automatically report outages back to central managers - a promising, money-saving process known as predictive maintenance. But that has not yet happened.

“We were informed we’d have predictive failure, but frankly that’s not there yet,” he told the audience. “There were aspirations sold to us by the manufacturer to start with, saying you’ll have ‘this, this, this, and this.’ That’s not necessarily realized for various reasons.”

Nonsensical sensors

Franks sounded confident that the London borough would indeed resolve the problems with its supplier, and that it might then be able to provide residents and visitors with lighting-based services, such as parking information. But his case served as a reminder that pioneers can take some arrows. Likewise, Ahmed Abubakir, an electrical engineer in charge of lighting projects at the UK’s University of Bristol, reported that sensors can be more difficult to deploy than vendors would have you believe.

On a panel with other education industry users entitled “Dealing with a sprawling university lighting estate: Tips from the experts,” Abubakir frankly described the integration of new technologies and control into the university’s disparate collection of old and new buildings as “a challenge.” The university is in the early stages of deploying modern intelligent controls, and Abubakir reported that “we’re still unsure” about how some of the wireless systems are working, noting that “people have had very bad experiences with sensors.” He did not elaborate on what type of sensors have proved difficult - he was presumably referring to motion sensors that turn lights on and off and so forth - but he added that he and his team are determined to find the right technology so “sensors can work and work very well without leading to any type of frustration.”

FIG. 3. Damian Oatway wants circadian lighting for NHS hospitals in Manchester, UK, but realizes it could be a tough sell in a risk-averse financial climate. To his left, Helen Loomes of vendor Trilux says it’s time for hospitals to equate lighting with patient wellbeing.
Source: Photographer Katura Jensen via Lux.

“It fits into our long-term strategy of trying to bring our buildings, the lighting equipment and everything, together into the BMS (building management system),” he said. “That is our long-term strategy, and we are starting now to put all those things in, to enable that in the future so that we can be able to link it up.”

On the same education panel, Abubakir had a kindred spirit in John Hindley, the head of environmental strategy at Manchester Metropolitan University in Manchester, UK, who, like Abubakir, is in the early stages of a shift to intelligent lighting. “The pace of change with LED has been a real challenge,” said Hindley, who holds great hope for the potential of connecting LEDs into the information network.

Push to The Edge

He’s interested, for example, in using intelligent lights to monitor their own faults and status, and to remotely adjust on/off and brightness depending on real-time information about room usage and occupancy. “We’re just starting to get there,” Hindley said, noting that different sections of the campus are at different stages depending on whether they are new buildings or older ones undergoing refurbishment. The goal is to tie all into a central system.

“It is a journey, and the intelligent campus and other things you can throw on these systems are interesting,” Hindley said. As a model, he lauded the “amazing” installation at The Edge office building in Amsterdam, where networked lighting systems monitor building conditions including occupancy and temperature in a manner that will automatically adjust not only lighting levels, but also heating and air conditioning, and which can help the building managers allocate rooms and desks.

“It addresses one of the big conundrums in higher education, which is utilization,” Hindley said. “It’s very difficult to monitor utilization in buildings.” Currently, the university “tends to do it two or three times a year, and then sort of apportion it out that way,” Hindley noted. But emerging smart lighting technology augurs vast improvement in that process.

“Whether it’s a PIR (passive infrared sensor, typically used for motion control), or whether it’s a wireless access point, we’re all carrying phones, so we can tell utilization surely by phones connected to wireless access points,” said Hindley. “The systems are coming together, but it’s been a long journey, and it’s been about getting one thing right first. You put your Christmas tree up first and then hang baubles off it, so it’s about not making it too complex to begin with. It does take time to get it right. One step at a time.”

Color it human

One big adornment that Hindley will push for is lighting that changes colors and color temperature throughout the day and night to match the needs of students and staff. So-called human-centric lighting (HCL) or circadian lighting might typically provide cooler-temperature bluish white light in classrooms or in the morning to stimulate alertness, and might veer toward oranges and reds in more relaxed settings. As evidence mounts showing the correlation between light colors and states such as alertness and relaxation, more schools, hospitals, businesses, and other institutions are beginning to express an interest in HCL.

“Students, when they’re on campus, we have to give them a home-from-home feel and a business-like experience as well,” said Hindley. “Office type (lighting) with a bluer feel tends to lend itself to better environments for concentration.” But the university could adjust lighting in students’ residential rooms. “Students do get stressed when they’re away from home, so give them a relaxed light, not a great big beacon in the room,” he explained. He hopes to begin experimenting with relaxed light schemes at some of the university’s residence halls.

FIG. 4. Tom van den Bussche, president of French consultant Toric, says the world will have to tap visible light waves from LED lamps to transmit and receive data using Li-Fi in place of Wi-Fi. Speaking at Strategies in Light Europe, van den Bussche predicted large Li-Fi deployments this year, and general adoption by 2017. He foresees that with 30 billion things soon connecting to the IoT, Wi-Fi will lack bandwidth.
Source: Photographer Katura Jensen via SIL Europe.

That will resonate with plenty of people in the healthcare field, where hospitals are beginning to think about, and in some cases implement, circadian lighting schemes to help patients perk up during the day and rest at night. Methods include modern intelligent controls, as well as common-sense techniques like allowing in natural daylight during the day by raising the blinds, and shielding patients from the bright light of nurses’ stations at night, said professor Debra Skene, who heads the faculty research group for sleep, chronobiology, and addiction at the UK’s University of Surrey, and who spoke on a panel entitled “How can we make healthier lighting a reality in Britain’s hospitals?” (Fig. 2).

“Having a dark night is just as important as having a really bright day,” Skene said. “Hopefully you can manage that with some sort of changing lighting. It would be really important to keep changing not only the intensity but the color spectrum and color temperature.” Skene advocated using more blue-tinged light during the day to support natural daylight, and warmer oranges at night. “We can’t have bright blue-enriched LEDs at midnight, whether it’s coming from our iPhone or from our lighting.”

Circadian sightings

Alexandra Hammond of Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust - two London hospitals - and Damian Oatway of Central Manchester NHS Trust - a group of six hospitals in Manchester, UK - are trying to put those principles to work. Both told the panel that circadian lighting could vastly improve the patient experience. And from an economic perspective, that could provide tremendous benefit to Britain’s cash-strapped National Health Service by shortening patients’ hospital stays. Hammond, in fact, will soon start experimenting with circadian lighting, using funding from a £1 million ($1.47 million) infusion the hospital was granted in funding for LED lighting, secured as part of a £12 million ($17.0 million) energy-efficiency project.

Oatway at Central Manchester noted that getting funding can be difficult, especially in the financially risk-averse National Health Care where people controlling the purse strings range across public/private partnerships and might prefer tried and true technologies, even T5 fluorescents (Fig. 3). “The range of people I’m going to have to convince is phenomenal,” Oatway said. “If T5 works fine, they’ll tend not to want change.”

That same old-fashioned thinking is an issue across industries. Franks is running into it at Westminster’s smart street-lighting project. “Unfortunately, the authorities who own these assets are normally silo thinking and don’t think beyond their own little area, which is a blocker at the moment,” Franks said. “There’s little strategic leadership from (central) government, which is holding us all back.”

Meanwhile, smart lighting technology continues to advance in many ways. At the SIL Europe conference, Tom van den Bussche, president of French LED industry consultant Toric, noted that 2015 was a year of interesting trials among large retailers such as Carrefour and E.Leclerc (Fig. 4). Carrefour is experimenting with visible light communication - an LED technology that engages in-store shoppers with product information and guides consumers straight to promotions of specific interest to them - as is Target in the US.

E.Leclerc has been trialing “Li-Fi” in a similar way, Bussche said. Li-Fi is a lighting technology that could challenge Wi-Fi, using light waves to transmit the Internet to phones, computers, and other mobile devices.

The UK’s Tony Howells welcomed the basket of lighting technologies, and said their adoption will come about “in millions of small steps.” That sounds like a safe enough prediction. And it must be said: One thing that has to happen along the way is that LED lights must also continue to function as, er, lights. Ironically, without illumination at their core, LEDs will never move beyond illumination.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor with LEDs Magazine (markhalper@aol.com).

Who owns the data?

As we’ve noted before here at LEDs Magazine, a battle is shaping up between Internet and lighting companies for control of the promising intelligent lighting market. While the two sides will find ways to cooperate for projects that use LED luminaires and infrastructure as nodes in data networks - witness Philips’ recent collaboration with Cisco in Power over Ethernet lighting - they will also find themselves vying head-to-head for ownership, or even for the revenue stream when they partner.

One contentious bone that surfaced at London’s LuxLive 2015 conference in late November is the question of who will own the data collected by the smart luminaires and sensors. It is the data, after all, that will have tremendous value in today’s information age, as it becomes available for a wide range of uses such as helping retailers decipher shopping trends, or helping consumers deploy apps that deliver things like traffic updates, maps, parking space availability, and so forth.

Iain Macrae, head of global lighting applications for street lighting vendor Thorn Lighting, noted that potential partners such as telecom companies are already throwing around their weight on the data front as lamp posts become integral furniture in intelligent city schemes, housing not just luminaires and sensors but also communications gear such as cellular and Wi-Fi transponders.

FIG. A. Tony Howells (center, with microphone) of the UK government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills predicts that at least one or two small lighting companies will rise into Google-sized companies on the strength of intelligent lighting. He also predicts the demise of certain large conventional lighting companies.
Source: Photographer Katura Jensen via Lux.

“I would love to sell data - I mean I’m going to sell luminaires that collect a lot of data - but there are one or two very big telecoms companies out there who won’t let me do it,” Macrae said during a spirited discussion panel entitled “Is smart streetlighting everything it’s cracked up to be?” “They haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I can see competition coming from Deutsche Telekom, EE, T-Mobile, all these people. They’re going to want to own the data. There are a few big electronics companies already who are collecting the data but who are trying to work out how to make money from it.”

“You need to make sure that you’re getting what you need out of it,” said WSP’s Allan Howard. “You’ll see large telecom companies approaching authorities [municipalities], probably central London first, the larger cities across the UK, saying, ‘Here’s a sum of money to use your equipment.’ And I think they’ll [the municipalities] be sheep to the slaughter, because it might be a large sum of revenue off the bat, but the realization is these companies will take them for a great deal more money across the term of their contract. So my advice would be consider getting a percentage of the most optimistic view. Because that data has value. It has real value.

“It will be interesting to find out who owns that data,” Howard continued. “Whether it’s personal data from telephones moving around. Or is it the telephone companies? Is it the Googles? Who owns the data? It will be interesting to find out that. And the impact that might have. But that is a real opportunity. And the local authorities need to realize revenue from these assets.”

FIG. B. Gooee straddles the lighting and IT world, making firmware that LED lighting manufacturers embed inside LED lamps and luminaires to help collect data and connect to the Internet. Shown is Gooee chief technology officer Simon Coombes at LuxLive.
Source: Photographer Katura Jensen via Lux.

That message was not lost on at least one individual from the front lines - Dave Franks, lighting manager for Westminster City Council, a central London borough that is in the early stages of a smart street-lighting deployment. He called for “some sort of steer” from central government on how data and revenue could be used. One of the big questions, he agreed, is “Who owns the data?”

Thorn’s Macrae noted that different models are emerging. For instance, the city of Glasgow is mounting sensors on lamp posts that monitor activities such as motion, and making data freely available to retailers who can then use it to help ascertain footfall, which helps them decide store opening hours and promotions. The city of Copenhagen has declared that data collected by street lights is owned by the public - by taxpayers - and is not for sale, he said.

Meanwhile, spoils to the winner in the battle for control of smart lighting. The opportunity is there for lighting companies as well as technology companies. “I have a sneaking suspicion there are probably one or two lighting companies out there that might be Google-sized in the next 10 years,” said Tony Howells, senior policy advisor to the UK government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Fig. A). “I will be shocked if it didn’t happen.” But the flip side is also true. As Howells noted, “There will probably be some other companies out there who are currently lighting companies who we would consider to be big companies, who probably won’t exist in a few years’ time.”

Some lighting industry veterans quietly acknowledge that Internet and IT companies could eventually grab the lead in the connected lighting race. At the same time, new specialists are emerging that cross both camps - such as the Santa Clara, CA startup Gooee, which is making sensor technology to embed in luminaires and is developing tools to help collect and present data in a useful, manageable way (Fig. B). It’s early in the game, but the action promises to soon get fast and furious. - Mark Halper

Strategies in Light speakers chart smart course forward for SSL

The conference at Strategies in Light (SIL) Europe, co-located at London’s ExCel Center with LuxLive, featured keynote- and plenary-session speakers that described the state of the LED and 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. Moreover, the SIL Investor Forum included topics that ranged from the technology side including component advancements to forward-looking business trends in the LED and SSL sectors.

Klaus Vambersky, executive vice president of Zumtobel Group, was bold in discussing the opportunities and the obstacles. 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 cause 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 SIL US in 2015, 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 (Fig. I). 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.

FIG. I. At Strategies in Light Europe, Massimiliano Guzzini, VP of iGuzzini, used examples to explain how LED-enabled innovations in lighting can improve the human experience, including how LED lighting has enhanced enjoyment of artwork.
Source: Photographer Katura Jensen via SIL Europe.

Meanwhile, 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.

In 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. A video interview with GE from LightFair in 2015 offers insight into the company’s plans.

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.

FIG. II. Vernon Nagel, CEO of Acuity Brands, enjoys a break at the Strategies in Light Europe conference, where he presented on corporate valuations in the LED industry. Acuity has been actively acquiring intelligent lighting and controls companies since 2008, when it presciently saw the emergence of LED-based smart lighting.
Source: Photographer Katura Jensen via Lux.

At the Investor Forum, there was more insight into the business behind SSL. Jed Dorsheimer, managing director of equity research for display and lighting, and Dan Coyne, managing director of investment banking, both spoke on behalf of Canaccord. Coyne specifically addressed trends in the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) area just as he had back at SIL 2015 in the US. At the Europe event, Coyne said he is seeing an increasing pace in M&A for both the LED and lighting sectors. He said there are more and bigger deals happening. But he said the trend in valuation of targets is to lower multiples of revenue.

Consolidation was indeed a hot topic. As we have noted repeatedly, there are too many manufacturers of packaged LEDs. At SIL, Christian Schraft, president of Havells-Sylvania, said the level of consolidation is based on where you look in the supply chain. He expects substantial consolidation in LED chip makers and packaged LED manufacturers. But he noted you will see far less consolidation as you move up the value chain. A primary reason for the difference is the fact that LEDs are a global business whereas luminaires are a regional business, according to Schraft.

Acuity Brands also spoke at the event, and Acuity has been a company with a long M&A history including its most recent acquisition of Juno Lighting. At SIL, Vernon Nagel, CEO of Acuity Brands (Fig. II), said the company would continue to see strategic acquisitions especially in the connected lighting space, citing the Distech acquisition as an example. At the SIL Europe Investor Forum, Nagel said connected lighting is a key to growth for the company and that Acuity is also investing internally in controls and software capabilities.

The discussion on LED components invariably turned to technology despite the fact that the forum was primarily financially focused. But it’s the technology trends that will determine the financial fate of many of the players. And the prime topic was the transition to chip-scale package (CSP) LEDs, just as we covered in a recent feature article.

Nichia and Lumileds each identified CSP as the next significant technology trend for LEDs but for different primary reasons. Nichia is looking for CSP to deliver component cost reductions beyond what has been achievable with mid-power LED technology. Dan Doxsee, deputy managing director of Nichia Chemical Europe, said mid-power LEDs were half the cost of high-power LEDs and CSP LEDs for general lighting will cost even less in volume production.

Surely Lumileds is looking to lower component cost as well, but the company has been stalwart in its stance that CSP can offer improved thermals and performance in high-power LEDs. Pierre-Yves Lesaicherre, CEO of Lumileds, said indeed CSPs will lead to lower bill of materials (BOM) cost in general lighting as the new technology moves into volume production. But he added that Lumileds believes it can drive CSPs at 2-3A, making it a replacement for high-power rather than mid-power LEDs. Moreover, he said Lumileds is making progress on minimizing droop to further increase performance in CSP LEDs. - Maury Wright and Robert Steele

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