Thoughts on Strategies in Light 2017

May 25, 2017

Thoughts on Strategies in Light 2017

Strategies in Light (SiL) is for the luminaire manufacturing community what Lightfair is for the specification world. It’s been the conference home for the industry’s OEM/nerd segment, and the presentations and exhibitors reflect that. Walking around the trade show floor, you’ll see many component, optic, power supply, communications, and semiconductor vendors that you may not see at Lightfair. Though perhaps they are a few years from prime time, the ideas presented make SiL a great place to explore where lighting is headed in a technical sense. Here are some thoughts on this year’s event:

 

IoT Faces an Uphill Battle

For the second year in a row, SiL dedicated an exclusive conference track to the Internet of Things (IoT) in lighting. My favorite new term is “clever” lighting: lighting which integrates communications and control but isn’t a sensor-laden “smart” device.

Clever lighting is going to be a big deal according to lighting conglomerates and startups catering to that market. However, as one of the SiL keynote speakers mentioned, once a “non-smart” SSL luminaire is installed (either in new construction or as a retrofit), it likely won’t be upgraded to a smart system for years.

The smart lighting market has to move fast if they want to expand their potential beyond one-off demonstration projects. IoT companies that don’t rely on lighting as their only pathway into the general market will be most successful.

In fact, LEDs Magazine just published an article suggesting this may be a bigger problem than many want to admit.

Niche Segments are the Greatest Areas of Growth for SSL

While there’s still development in the general lighting LED space, other niche applications like automotive, horticultural, and disinfection have potential—you’ll see emitter manufacturers investing more in these spaces. White light LEDs, particularly the mid-power class that dominates general lighting, are now effectively commoditized.

Recently, the roadmaps I’ve seen from emitter manufacturers within that mid-power class suggest a “levelling off” in the pace of efficacy improvements. Whether this is due to less money for R&D or an approaching physical limit in what can be done with blue-pumped, phosphor-converted LEDs is a topic for another blog post.

New Opportunities Emerge

Look for more LED manufacturers to progress into the module and array space. Chip-scale packaged emitters, for example, are the next big thing. However, the specialized equipment they need will impede module makers in the short term—LED manufacturers themselves may be better positioned to build these into arrays that luminaire manufacturers can use.

I smiled when a speaker on OLED lighting mentioned Visa Lighting as one of the companies at the forefront of commercial-grade luminaires using these sources—and one of the very few where OLEDs are standard.

Also gaining momentum are laser diode-pumped light sources for high luminance applications. These will be pretty interesting once they have resolved CCT and binning consistency hurdles.

Not everything at SiL impressed, however. Located next to the SiL exhibit area, Lightspace California was…underwhelming. This “show” was advertised as a new and exciting event for specifiers and exhibited several architectural fixture companies, yet it quickly became the area to sit quietly or check your phone messages. I think that PennWell (who owns SiL and LEDs Magazine) should not bring this back next year. Let SiL serve the OEMs and let Lightfair serve the specifier community.