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Thoughts from Lightfair 2017

May 11, 2017
Lightfair International showcases ongoing trends in lighting, controls and applications

It doesn’t seem all that long ago at Lightfair that LEDs were on the frontier and you would only see them in exit signs, theatrical lighting and traffic lighting. But in the late-1990s/early 2000s LEDs began a steady march through all niches of the lighting market and today are far and away the dominant light source.

I distinctly remember the Lightfair when Color Kinetics first came on the scene with LEDs capable of producing multiple colors and projecting pre-programed lighting scenes. Attendees swarmed their booth to see the then-innovative demonstration and I believe Color Kinetics won the show’s Innovation Award that year in San Francisco.

This year, Lightfair is all about not only the deep penetration of LEDs into every nook and cranny of the lighting market but also a bunch of IoT-enabled, app-based lighting controls; tuneable light; and a whole new level of productivity tools. Users utilize them to not only save energy but to track space usage in facilities; watch and analyze movement of shoppers in a store; and track assets in a building, like wheelchairs in a hospital or inventory in a store. Here are a few observations on what we saw happening with these trends at Lightfair.

Tuneable white light. The ability to offer a dimmable spectrum of color temperatures from warm to cool light has quickly moved from a gee-whiz showstopper to a common feature in the product lines of many exhibitors at Lightfair.

IoT-enabled lighting control. Tying together lighting control technologies like daylight harvesting, occupancy sensors and dimming into an intelligent lighting system that can remotely track energy usage and identify potential savings in an app-based dashboard has spread quickly throughout the lighting world. Two or three years ago, you would only see intelligent lighting systems offered by the largest lighting conglomerates. Today, companies of all sizes are marketing intelligent lighting systems that can not only maximize savings from lighting systems but tie into other building control systems such as HVAC and security.

Productivity – the next frontier. The newest technological wave to hit the lighting market is equipping lighting fixtures with sensors that not only track energy usage but monitor occupant or vehicle movement, sound, air quality and other building parameters. The data that lighting fixtures can gather on these parameters help users not only save energy but operate their buildings more productively. Examples include determining which office spaces are utilized most often and which parking spaces in a garage are open.

Smart cities. Cities are now using the new technologies and capabilities discussed above to provide residents, businesses and visitors with a safer, more efficient work environment. The opportunity to retrofit or replace existing city streetlights with this new technology is clearly enormous. In a seminar on smart cities, Jeff Cassis, senior V.P. of government business for Philips Lighting, says New York has 500,000 “light points” that could be retrofitted with these new technologies and that Chicago has 300,000. Munish Khetrapal, managing director for Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities Sol, said Cisco has seven signed contracts for citywide connected lighting networks and he thinks that at least 20 major networks will be in place by this time next year and many smaller ones.

Grow lights for urban gardens.  LED lighting for urban gardens, as well as cannabis farming, is gaining momentum and the increase in the number of these lighting systems on the show floor at Lightfair was striking. LEDs can now be calibrated to provide just the right type of light for specific plant types. Urban farmers are using this capability to grow fresh produce closer to restaurants and consumers in densely populated urban areas. Some cities are already developing urban gardens in abandoned subway tunnels, old mill buildings and other buildings that can be repurposed.