Lightfair 2015 – Are You Connected?

Smart Lighting Is The Name Of The Game

Lightfair returned to New York with a bang. The refurbished convention centre sports a new ‘crystal palace’ allowing the entrance area to be flooded with natural daylight. The show was a great success in terms of both the number of exhibitors and number of visitors. And the key word this year? Controls. Or more specifically, smart lighting. Designed to enable energy efficiency as well as personal preference by the automatic and/or remote control of lights via wireless technology – controlling light was the talk of the show. And it seems that everyone wants to control their lighting via their smartphone. Or so the manufacturers would have you believe given the many apps that were being demonstrated. Late to the party were lighting giants GE. While their contemporaries were happily demonstrating new smart products, they have announced a smart light, but it doesn’t exist yet.
Although most were Zigbee based, CSR’s Bluetooth® Smart CSRmesh™ protocol has been designed to place the smartphone at the centre of the IoT. It allows for an almost unlimited number of Bluetooth low energy devices to be networked together and directly controlled from a single smartphone, tablet or PC. Broadcasting to all nodes, users can control any Bluetooth Smart-enabled home or office device from wherever they are – including lighting, heating, home appliances and security systems – securely and seamlessly. This extends the range of Bluetooth Smart throughout the home or business and is much cheaper to set up than other protocols on the market. It has a typical maximum range of approximately 50 meters.
According to studies¹, smartphone penetration is expected to exceed 79% in Western Europe and North America by 2017. The influence of mobile devices on how we live our lives and interact with the world is self evident. But changing the colour of the kitchen lights while we are at the pub? Perhaps that’s novelty taken a little too far.

Omnipoint booth shot cropped_300dpi OmniPoint App Close Up_300dpi

Prepare To Be Wowed

Osram Sylvania’s OmniPoint LED luminaire was recognized with an Innovation Award for the most innovative product of the year. I gave it a ‘wow’, which is quite rare for me. The last time that happened was when Cree debuted their LEDs at Light+Building many years ago. The OmniPoint is a wireless LED lighting luminaire consisting of an array of independently controllable LEDs that can switch on/off and dim in coordination with the others in any combination. It produces ambient and spot lighting from a single light package at the same time. The light output and placement are reconfigurable via a wireless device and Android app. As a result, the user has the ability to quickly adjust the effective beam direction and angle, beam shape and distribution at the touch of a finger, rather than requiring a ladder and the extensive time needed to manually adjust various light sources. This is a retail designers dream. During the demo, a retail scene was lit in at least 10 different ways within minutes. But when the beam was split, allowing the lighting of wall and floor mounted clothing displays at the same time, it really got my vote as the absolute best product at the show.

Meanwhile, Soraa has incorporated the option of wireless control into its product line, starting with the company’s PAR30L (long neck) LED lamp, which has customizable remote functions including dimming, control of lamps in user-defined groups, and user-designed preset lighting scenes. “With omni-directional light sources, the impact of this is still quite limited; however, directional sources create the ability to locally dial-in light levels,” said Jeff Parker, CEO of Soraa.

In his Lightfair keyote, Soraa founder Shuji Nakamura, inventor of the blue LED and the 2014 Nobel Prize Winner in physics, covered the history of LED technology from his early work which led to the Nobel Prize to today’s GaN, which will lead to the next wave of Solid State Lighting. I attended a number of the seminars at this years show. There were a huge number to choose from, at varying levels and I particularly liked the various formats; from full blown workshops to 30 minute power lunches, there was something for everyone. The general feeling around LEDs was that the brightness race is over and now we need to pay more attention to how we use the lumens produced. The market also seems to be moving to warmer colours in general.

Where Are The OLEDs?

What struck me as relatively absent this year were OLEDs. After the hype and buzz of a few years ago, they were hardly to be seen. And as I write this, we learn that Philips has decided to divest itself of its OLED business unit. Acuity and WAC showed some of their OLED products but these were not new. Interestingly, Acuity showed two new concept families using both LEDs and OLEDs in the same luminaire. Something they call Duet SSL™ Technology. The LEDs were giving the higher lumens and the OLEDs were more of a decorative and style element. It’s not completely clear what the application will be but I’m sure the lighting design community will determine if the market wants this kind of hybrid solution. They certainly looked very elegant.

Finally, in an era where companies seem to come and go in a heartbeat, it was especially nice to join Bill Brown and his team as they celebrated 60 years in the business. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Bill, he is a true gent who deals with people how he would like them to deal with him. His family run company does business with people and builds long lasting relationships. Perhaps this is why his company has not only survived but thrived – from a makeshift office in his apartment to an international operation of more than 800 employees. I first met Bill when he was chair of the International Relations Committee of the IESNA back in the 90’s. He has given freely of his time to support the lighting industry and continues to promote the art and science which we all love so passionately. Well done Bill!

New York certainly delivered on its promise to be a great show. Many local designers told me that they just didn’t have the time to make the trip down to Philadelphia and I think the visitor numbers will bear that out. Next year, the show moves from Las Vegas to San Diego. I wonder what effect that will have on the west coast numbers? Only time will tell. I for one, am looking forward to it.

By Julie Allen

¹GSMA Market Report 2015 “The Mobile Economy”

Mark Your Calendar for LFI 2016

PRE-CONFERENCE: April 24 – 25, 2016
TRADE SHOW & CONFERENCE: April 26 – 28, 2016
San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA USA


27 May