Last week’s annual LightFair conference was the fifth since the show turned into LEDFair back in 2010. At that event, for the first time, more than half of the show’s 450 vendors were displaying LED products. This year virtually all 500+ vendors in the Javitz Center were LED-centric.
LED lighting has been PacMan, gobbling up LightFair booth space formerly reserved for less exciting high-intensity discharge, halogen and neon lighting. This year even energy efficient fluorescent lighting got the boot. If a vendor did display a fluorescent fixture, it was only to highlight how much better the LED version looked – a stunning shift that says, game, set and match – LEDs win.
So what else did our team learn?
LEDs: Years ago it was all about the chips – how bright, what color, how much $, how long would they last? Today chips are no longer the story and the players have essentially been decoupled from the lamp and fixture market. In March Philips sold 80% of Lumileds and Osram’s new management is already planning to split out it’s LED and fixture business. The Edison said it best: “a fully integrated player that covers the entire value chain will not achieve synergistic benefits and will actually lose advantage.” Even LED pure play CREE just reported that revenue for its LED fixtures has surpassed their legacy chip business. The theme is clear – the market for LED fixtures and lamps is ramping while the chips game is commoditizing.
Optics: More vendors are showing creative, optically leveraged applications, with improved aesthetics and better techniques for hiding shiny diode dots. Parking lot fixtures now beam shape light sideways to more evenly distribute light around your car. CREE showed off its newest Wavemax technology, which essentially shines light through polycarbonate fins to get more even distribution without the glare. Soraa has mastered adding customized shape and color shifting, using elegant, magnetic snap-on lenses to their high CRI lamp. Museum, hotel and retail lighting designers must be excited with this new on-the-fly flexibility.
Architectural Lighting: Like the cool new optics, we saw many more versions of high end, higher cost architectural lighting than years past. A few years ago these make-a-statement displays had simply replaced light sources with LED equivalents, but today all variations have been LEDized. Some great effects were achieved using creatively arranged LED chips, coiled LED tape lighting and filament LED lamps, which are made to look like older incandescent lamps. As with everything artistic, some attempts were head scratchers (see this blog’s cover photo of RAB Lighting’s display)
Intelligence: Software and network based intelligence now comes in all forms – sophisticated or simple, dynamic or set and forget. For the consumer, we saw a confusing glut of smart 60watt equivalent LED lamps, all controllable by iPhones, now available from virtually every major brand player including TCP, CREE, GE, and Philips. Daintree, Digital Lumens and Enlighted all marketed their latest Title 24 advantaged lighting networks, with new and improved building energy management features. Sensity showed off their wireless video network leveraging LED based exterior roadway and parking lot lighting. The implementations mount and scavenge power through LED retrofits to HID pole and wall mounted fixtures. With a network of evenly spaced sensors their software can pick up on security breaches, open parking spaces or even extreme temperature changes.
Lastly, the Big Guys: Attendees couldn’t miss the sheer physical size of the Big Guy booths. No longer did we hunt through these multi-color overwhelming displays to uncover what in their product lines was new and LED. Acuity, Cooper, CREE, GE, Hubbell LG, Philips, Samsung and Osram all had professionalized and dramatic LED-centric sales presentations showing today’s products and forecasting a lot to come. And with every fixture type now available from a brand player, our engineers didn’t feel the tension to copy last year’s scavenger hunt, searching through specialty vendors across the 200,000 square foot exhibit hall. Everything they needed to get the state of the market was right there up front.
And this left us wondering how the smaller LED players will continue to justify showing off their latest and greatest at next year’s LEDFair in San Diego.