Market Insight

Lightfair event showcases lighting innovations beyond illumination

June 21, 2019

Pal Karlsen Pal Karlsen Research Analyst II, Building Technology

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The 30th annual Lightfair International event was held in Philadelphia in May, making the city the center of the lighting world for one week. The leading companies in the lighting industry were present once again, along with a raft of exciting challengers and startups. All of them showcased their best new products and innovations as they attempted to attain leadership in an old industry that’s now in flux amid a technological revolution.

The trade fair illustrated how the industry’s focus is moving beyond energy savings and toward finding new ways to add value and expand their margins. The emphasis was largely on connectivity and health benefits. However, user friendliness and security were also high on the agendas of the exhibitors.

A major theme at the show was the pressing need to break down silo thinking, opening things up for equipment to interoperate seamlessly. This requires an increase in open, connectivity-friendly standards at the expense of proprietary protocols—particularly the limited 0-10V protocol that’s so popular in the North American market.

The DALI protocol appears to be on the ascendancy due to its suitability in larger applications. North America is expected to follow the lead of Europe, where DALI is already the dominant wired protocol. Bluetooth and Zigbee are still expected to dominate the wireless protocol market, according to IHS Markit.

IHS Markit in recent years has written regularly about the trend toward tunable-white or full-spectrum LEDs. These LEDs were also one of the major topics for this year’s Lightfair. This technology offers ample opportunity to adjust lighting to promote health and productivity by bringing the daylight indoors. Suppliers are promoting the idea of replicating sunlight and the circadian rhythm to make customers see the value of this technology. They also are backing this idea up with specific scientific research. Tuneable whites are set to become increasingly commonplace and are expected to be particularly popular in the office, education and healthcare verticals.

Lighting companies are trying to exploit the ubiquity of their products by adding value beyond enhancing the brightness and color of light. Asset tracking is a long-term trend that was at the forefront at the fair, with much attention from the biggest players like Signify, Acuity Brands and Crestron, as well as exciting contributions from companies like ARM and Enlighted.

This type of technology presents a plethora of opportunities for efficiency gains, cost reductions and better retail experiences. Precision and accuracy in tracking the assets seems to be where much of competitive edge lies, but usability for end users and building managers is also paramount. The primary applications are verticals where light directly impacts profit centers, such as retail, and with high value assets, such as the health sector.

Companies are also seeking to utilize UV-light as a germ killer, with Current by GE displaying a very interesting option. This company also showed that outdoor lighting can be more than just illumination, with a sensor that could detect gunshots and alert the police. Signify also displayed a sensor that could detect dangerous road surfaces like ice.

Security is also gaining recognition as an important factor for the lighting industry. It is an underlying issue for all connected devices because they are part of a network that’s vulnerable to intrusion. However, security is center stage for Li-Fi technology, which lists security as one of its main benefits. Global lighting leader Signify placed a strong emphasis on this technology in its booth.

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