As attendees scurry around the miles of aisles of Lightfair to stop by the remaining booth visits on their list, it’s time to summarize the key trends that emerged at America’s largest lighting show of the year, which one attendee aptly described as “Disneyland for lighting nerds.”
#1. Multi-tasking is a big theme in new product development.
New lighting products that can be programmed to offer different voltages, color temperatures, and other lighting parameters were all over the show floor. This is a welcome trend for electrical contractors and electrical distributors because it means they have less product to carry in their trucks or stock on warehouse shelves.
#2. Connected lighting is big, but it still accounts for a small percentage of all lighting products sold and installed.
There’s no question that connected lighting is here to stay, and many of the new products on the show floor were different variations of app-based lighting control or were control systems that could link with other building systems like HVAC or security. But as one Eaton executive told us during a booth tour, contractor-grade lighting systems and spec-grade lighting products and systems pretty much split the market as far as the total amount of lighting sales. No disrespect for connected lighting — its evolution is fascinating. But it’s still in the early innings as a fast-growing but comparatively small product segment.
#3. LED lighting for horticulture applications and the disinfection of medical and food preparation facilities are two super-interesting product categories.
While many folks get a few laughs out of the use of tunable LED lighting to grow marijuana in cannabis-friendly states, the bigger play for this technology is tuning light so that it can grow more – and healthier -- food closer to customers. Applications include vertical urban farms in converted urban building stock or indoor warehouse farms near major population centers. And anyone who has had a family member or friend in the hospital worries about the possibility of them getting an infection during their stay, which reportedly happens to one in 20 patients. Developing LED lighting systems to cut down on the chance of this happening is a very noble pursuit that helps us all.
#4. The old “Big Three” are still standing, but in dramatically different forms.
GE, Philips, and Sylvania have new ownership structures and new names, but all three companies were aggressively marketing new products at their booths. For example, LEDVANCE Sylvania showcased a variety of new products aimed at making contractors’ lives easier on job sites; Signify (Philips) was promoting new products including smart streetlight and LiFi; and Current by GE had some particularly interesting new products aimed at the horticulture market and eliminating infections in medical applications.
#5. Philadelphia has become a popular venue for lighting and electrical industry events.
This was the second time in three years that Lightfair came to Philadelphia, and last fall the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) held its annual conference and trade show at the Philadelphia Convention Center. The convention center is close enough to either the airport or the train station for Amtrak and SEPTA (local trains); enough hotels are within walking distance; the Reading Terminal across the street from the convention center offers some great options for lunch or breakfast; and the historical sites of the city are easily accessible if you have the time to visit them. While some of the popularity of Philadelphia may be due to the ongoing renovations of the Jacob Javits Center in New York, the City of Brotherly Love can stand on its own as a great convention city.
As your humble editor heads out for one more day of Lightfair with more than 10 miles on the show floor already logged on my smartwatch, my congratulations go out to the folks at Lightfair. They definitely put on another good show.