I enjoy receiving Ted Konnerth’s newsletter from Egret Consulting Group. Ted has an excellent big picture view of the lighting industry. Like everybody else, he doesn’t have all the answers about where things are ultimately headed, but he’s asking the right questions. The below article is republished from an issue I received the week after LIGHTFAIR, and contains some interesting observations.
On a final note, I wish you all a safe and fun July 4 weekend.
By Ted Konnerth
15 years ago when Egret was a fledgling company, we regularly told clients that we specialize in the electrical industry; not the electronics industry. So our clients deal in amps, not milliamps. No software required, just real world stuff that requires hand tools and safety gear and steel toe boots. LightFair in those days was a sleepy organization that started regionally and slowly grew to become a national show. My, my… how things have changed.
Last week, LightFair held host to over 600 vendors on two floors of Javits. The attendance was extraordinary and the overall energy was intoxicating. Many of my meetings with senior leaders of the industry remarked that this was the best LFI in their experience. From the chair of a long-tenured lighting guy with over 15 years of leadership assessment; here are my thoughts on the impact of the conference on the general lighting industry:
· Electronics. You couldn’t walk 50 feet without running into a controls booth; incorporated into a traditional lighting booth or a stand-alone controls company. As we’ve reported for several years, LED has enabled the adoption of electronic systems into the traditional electrical industry. We are now entering a world that is markedly different, as evidenced by vendors demonstrating:
o Lighting controls
o Color controls
o Internet of Things interfaces
o Building automation interfaces
o LiFi communication protocols
· LED adoption. It’s been slowly coming, but we’ve arrived at the point where it’s no longer LED Lighting; it’s Lighting; which of course is utilizing LED. While there are a ton of issues surrounding the legacy lamp sources (i.e. will GE and Osram sell off their legacy lamps and ballasts division or simply treat them as a diminishing cash cow?), the bigger issues are innovation around the application of LED.
· Form factors. The designers have returned! Form factors are now moving into the market; from street lighting to ambient, there were a host of novel, creative and effective ways to deliver lumens to a task.
· Optics. The opportunity to grasp light at the photon level and redirect that energy into waves or sheets of light that can be optically controlled to deliver light to the seeing task with little wasted or glare losses is a new world to lighting. Forget fixture efficiencies and light loss factors; let’s talk about planar solutions to lighting the seeing task; with little to no light losses.
· Software. Sadly, grudgingly I admit defeat. We are officially in the electronic and software industry now. The interface to building systems and data analytics is too big of a step forward to overlook. Lighting now sits at the epicenter of Big Data and the IoT as the geographic toll booth to the information highway. I’m going to buy geek glasses and go find my old published Fortran programs to validate my street ‘cred’.
· New players. It is very notable that companies such as Flextronics, ABB, Ideal Industries, Mitsubishi, LG Electronics and Synapse would invest serious dollars in LightFair and announce they’re a player in Lighting? So global electronics, wire nut, IoT and power distribution companies see something in lighting that makes them want to play with the legacy guys who actually understand the maze of buying influences in selling lighting products? We’re Big Boys now.
And then there’s the absorption factor. So many new things with so many different ways to utilize lighting. The explosion of market potential for lighting on a global stage. Egret hosted our second annual Leadership Summit with CEO’s of privately held companies and discussed the impacts on Leadership for the emergence of Lighting into global industries; Energy, Health Care, Agriculture, Construction. How many leaders can claim to have direct experience in managing Lighting as a contributor to Energy, Health Care, Agriculture and Construction; plus communicate across trade influences of HVAC, Security, Data/Com, etc? And don’t forget about the nascent movement to DC power distribution; with integration of solar energy and of course… LED lighting.
The answer is None. So where do we find talent with the intellect and interest in managing complex systems on a global basis; while preserving the legacy channel relationships? It’s a legitimate question with no real answer.
Leadership will be stressed by the confluence of market expansion, technology changes and availability of talent due to the Boomer retirement and the GenX population deficit. We are in a market that has never existed before in the electrical industry. The challenges of multiple trade influences coupled with new and newer technology is daunting alone. But the strategic side of the business; defining which markets to address, the competitive landscape and the IP barriers to entry are largely new to the industry.
On the positive side; there is more opportunity for the lighting industry than at any time since Edison. The creativity of new entrants is amazing; from poultry and plant growth to color-based healing to photometric solutions that amaze… it’s a beautiful new world with plenty of room in that sandbox for a lot of new players.
And it’s even better for people who are in the business of assessing new skills, leadership and strategic thinking for an evolving new industry. And that is a very good thing for the people of Egret.