When you spend several days at LightFair hearing from so many lighting manufacturers about the wonders of IOT, connected lighting, asset management and other developments on the lighting's technological frontier, it can be easy to overlook the impact it will all have on the key players in the lighting market.
Tom Griffiths, senior marketing manager, Sensor Driven Lighting, brought a packed room of lighting professionals back down to earth in his seminar, "The Shotgun Marriage of Lighting, Integrated Controls and the IoT."
Griffiths said companies like Google and Cisco could one day be competitors to established players in the lighting business like designers, consultants, reps, manufacturers, distributors and contractors because they see lighting as an opportunity to gather data on end users that they can package to market their services.
They are quite interested in the lighting industry now because of all the data light fixtures can collect through IOT-enabled sensors on people or presence of materials, vehicles, inventory and other assets. He said, "Cisco says, 'Just connect the lights. we want the data.'"
While connected lighting systems are currently installed in a tiny percentage of all available fixtures, Griffiths expects that to change fast. "There is so little connected right now it is almost insane to think what is going to happen in the next few years," he said.
The big question is who will be doing the installation and maintenance of these connected lighting systems. Griffiths said it's not too big of a stretch to imagine a day when a Silicon Valley-based Big Data company would own and manage lighting systems in a Lighting As a Service arrangement, and customers would dial a customer-support line to have their lighting system commissioned, maintained or upgraded. "Silicon Valley will drop in and say We will take it from here, folks," he quipped.
If the lighting market ever evolves to the point where a Google or a Cisco gets into direct Lighting As a Service Arrangements, electrical contractors, electrical distributors and even lighting designers could get cut out of the business.
Griffiths' presentation generated a spirited discussion amongst attendees on the quality of the "cheap digital light" that these companies would produce, because they most likely would not spend much time designing beautifully lit spaces.
Griffiths also put out a call to action for any lighting manufacturers who are not yet believers in connected lighting. "Take the leap or lose relevance. This will happen faster than you think," he said.