June 2, 2017
This year, LightFair was an enriching event. It’s always helpful to have the opportunity to see which direction the lighting industry is moving, and as expected, there were some trends that stood out.
IoT and Tunability
Both controls and connectivity are still everywhere. The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a big buzzword in the tech industry for a few years now, and we’re beginning to see it migrate to the lighting side in force. The big question that needs to be answered is which physical protocol will take place. There hasn’t been any consensus quite yet.
It was interesting to see the displays that delved fully into IoT. I think the displays did a wonderful job of introducing the notion of IoT to people who have heard of it but have yet to see a practical application. I did see less Power over Ethernet (PoE) than we’ve seen in the past.
Tunable lighting is gaining some traction as well. There were more exhibitors demonstrating their fixtures’ tuning capabilities—though not as many as I expected. I did notice many more component companies showing off technology that can be integrated by OEMs.
From a design standpoint, there weren’t any trends that stuck out to me. Last year, everybody and their mother was showing off a ring form. This year, nothing was so clear. I did see many asymmetric designs and several interesting linear forms with new applications.
It seemed like everyone went bigger this year: big booths from the usual suspects, and many booths from new players. For example, some international companies that I wasn’t too familiar with introduced fixtures for the first time; you could see those new players by taking a stroll through F Hall.
There were also many more displays for horticultural lighting. I don’t think that LightFair is the place to exhibit that kind of thing, but I saw about a dozen companies showing off nothing but horticultural lights. This technology has been bubbling for the past year and a half or so, but I think we’ll see a deep dive going forward. Companies have been introducing emitters for the horticultural space for a while, but OEMs are finally starting to enter the market and utilize those components.
It seems like the industry is in a weird holding pattern. Lighting technology had always been fairly stagnant until LEDs came along and blew everything up—after that, everybody tried to stay up to date with the latest in LED technology. Well, now the LEDs are settling down. Updates aren’t coming as frequently or as drastically as they used to. That gives manufacturers the freedom to start investigating the cool stuff.
Now, we’re presented with so many options: IoT, PoE, horticulture, tunable light, controls—all of these are viable choices to dive into. It’s just a matter of how. After the early “Wild West” days of LEDs, I think it’s going to take some time before the industry standardizes these things. Of course, everybody wants to be first to market. We’ll most likely see all of these sorted out over the next few years.