I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Tim McKinney, Product Marketing (Outdoor) North America, Philips Lighting. The topic: trends in outdoor area lighting. I’m happy to share his responses with you here. The interview informed an article I wrote for the March 2016 issue of tED.

DiLouie: How would you characterize demand for outdoor area lighting?

McKinney: The demand for Outdoor area lighting is stronger than ever. Public safety continues to be of the utmost importance in today’s society and lighting plays a major role in providing a safer environment. Demand is also being spurred by new technological innovations particularly in the area of connected lighting. Connected luminaires are beginning to appear for every conceivable professional lighting application, from street lighting to office lighting to façade lighting to display lighting in shops and supermarkets. Connected lighting goes far beyond the idea of controls as you can read in this article: http://origin.www.futureoflight.philips.com/post/130067433906/connected-lighting-the-internet-of-illuminated

DiLouie: How would you characterize demand for LED outdoor area lighting?

McKinney: The demand for LEDs is much higher than HID in nearly all categories and continues to increase every year. When comparing the pricing for conventional HID luminaires to today’s LED luminaires, especially when comparing the total cost of ownership, the conversion to LED is a great choice.

What percentage of new unit sales of outdoor area luminaires is specified with LED sources relative to traditional sources like HID?

In some applications the percentage of new unit sales compared to HID can be as high as 95% for LED. On average for total Outdoor area, we estimate the market to be around 65%. By 2019 this share will be more like 80% according to research by Navigant.

DiLouie: What characteristics of the LED source particularly lend themselves to outdoor area lighting? What are the benefits of using LED in this type of luminaire?

McKinney: At the highest level, LEDs are point sources so you can put the light where you want and need it versus simply spreading light all over. This is a major benefit of LEDs. Even in Outdoor area lighting, there are varying needs from retail applications to automotive and pedestrian traffic. These all need to be illuminated properly without compromising adjacent properties and spaces. LEDs with specialized, individual optical control makes this possible.

DiLouie: How are today’s LED outdoor area luminaires substantially different in terms of design than their HID predecessors?

McKinney: Due to the sensitive nature of the light source in terms of thermal ranges and effect on lumen output and life, today’s luminaires require a much more sophisticated and thoughtful engineering design. This also means there needs to be robust testing to make sure the LEDs meet their promises over the entire life of the product.

DiLouie: How would you categorize outdoor area luminaires in terms of equipment/application types? Which do LED lend themselves most well?

McKinney: Our Outdoor area luminaires cover a wide range of applications, and we provide luminaires that fit nearly every value proposition. Regardless of whether the customer is motivated by price, aesthetics, performance, or even “connected” lighting options, we have a luminaire or family of luminaires to fit their need. The great thing about LEDs, is that they are versatile providing significant energy savings and control capabilities for all applications.

DiLouie: Is there a white goods and specification segment of the market? How big is each (compared to the other)? How predominant is LED in each?

McKinney: There is always a market for lower cost, less featured, and to some extent high volume luminaires even in the Outdoor area lighting category, regardless of the source. Additionally and thankfully, there is also a market where aesthetics, performance, and other features and benefits are valued and selected. In terms of the size of each market, it’s difficult to say with any degree of real accuracy but both are significant.

For new construction, the overwhelming majority is LED. HID continues to be sold as replacements in older installations where the entire site may not be changing, or once again where price of luminaire is the primary consideration for purchasing. Additionally, some areas of the country enjoy lower energy rates where “energy savings” and “financial payback” aren’t as significant. The great thing about that is as a manufacturer we continue to offer luminaires with HID and LED sources continuing to serve the entire market.

DiLouie: What are the top three technological trends in LED outdoor area luminaire design? What are the benefits of these trends?

McKinney: First, LEDs continue to improve every year. This allows Outdoor area luminaire designs to be more efficacious using fewer LEDs to produce the same amount of light or deliver more light if needed with less energy. This lowers our costs and the price to the consumer.

Secondly, we are at a turning point in lighting controls. We are now seeing control systems evolve to take advantage of the digital nature of LED lighting. LEDs can be readily integrated with other intelligent systems like mobile and cloud-based technologies.

Thirdly, the demand for a broader range of color temperatures is increasing. Initially, in Outdoor area lighting, delivering “enough” lumens to compete with HID was a challenge at a price point the market would accept. The “cooler” temperatures were much more efficacious at the time when compared to the “warmer” colors we have available today, and therefore the dominant choice in Outdoor area lighting was around 5700K. This gap in lumen output based on color temperature is declining and as a result the market has shifted significantly towards the warmer colors in almost every application. Today the dominant color is 4000K, with the demand and the desire for even warmer colors on the rise.

DiLouie: What kinds of optical systems are available with LED outdoor area luminaires, and how do they differ in terms of utility, cost and applications?

McKinney: In today’s global market place and purchasing capabilities over the internet, all kinds of “components” and optical systems are available today to anyone. A wide variety of materials and distributions, and a host of promises are rampant. The thing to remember is that anyone can deliver light.

But truly understanding the characteristics of the entire Solid State Lighting system, and designing accordingly is the differentiator. Regardless of the optics used, if the thermal properties of the LED, and the driver, and any other electronic component are not managed properly, the expected life of the system and the promises will not be met.

DiLouie: Where are these trends taking us? What will LED outdoor area luminaires look like in 3-5 years? Integrated technologies, interactive capabilities?

McKinney: Even though we are less restricted today in terms of our design capabilities and aesthetics based on the size of the LEDs and other material and light source choices, the mainstream luminaires themselves may not” look” that much different in 3-5 years.

But you’re right in asking about the technologies and interactive capabilities. I often say, “Remember when a phone was a phone?” The same is true for lighting and where we are in the “beyond lumination” journey.

One of my favorite recent examples is Claudia Paz’s three-dimensional interactive façade for the Banco del Credito in Lima, Peru. She has created a truly monumental yet subtle installation. For certain hours in the early evening anyone can step up to an interactive podium and create different natural scenes like sand or rain. The experience is accompanied by a custom soundtrack Paz created with her collaborators. The interaction is intuitive and poetic at the same time. Of course this goes far beyond site and area lighting for functional illumination. Still, it is part of the breadth lighting offers for outdoor spaces.

Advancements in sensors, connected lighting capabilities for control and feedback, public assistance and city wide emergency response capabilities, homeland and localized security needs, all make lighting an interesting choice for these types of capabilities.

DiLouie: What opportunities are there today with lighting controls being integrated with LED outdoor area luminaires? What types of controls are used, and what are their benefits?

McKinney: Controls provide multiple benefits. The primary benefit is increased energy reduction providing even greater savings to the owner and reducing our carbon footprint on the world. We’re all aware of the dimming capabilities of LED, a significant benefit over HID. And of course added motion sensing and daylight sensing can also be used to manage light levels and once again reduce energy.

Additional controls and systems can also be used to proactively monitor the performance of the luminaires themselves and report any variances/outages as needed. This significantly reduces maintenance and management costs, and provides quicker response to repair or replace damaged luminaires to improve public safety.

Additional benefits and other opportunities with LEDs ad controls with the proper systems are to use lighting and “color” to enhance your property or City to improve the experience. Entire spaces can be converted to bring people together, enjoy the night life outdoors, and improve the financial outlook in that area. All very beneficial to any property owner or City official. Again more than just simple on/off or dimming is the real benefits of solid state lighting and systems.

We are also taking a unique approach to outdoor controls. For example, through our work with Los Angeles we have shown how it is possible to revolutionize the control of street lighting and other outdoor lighting. Los Angeles is the first city in the world to control its street lighting through mobile and cloud-based technologies. With almost no commissioning effort at all the city will be able to connect to all its assets directly. Over time performance data or energy consumption metrics can be share with multiple systems across the city. We are about to experience a radical shift in how control systems are deployed in outdoor lighting.

DiLouie: What should distributors be doing right now to maximize the value they offer to their customers in lighting projects featuring LED products?

McKinney: As mentioned before, anyone can deliver light. Our industry today is inundated with so many new manufacturers making claims about light equivalency and life. And when they fail, they hurt the industry and the technology.

My recommendation to every consumer or distributor is to make sure those claims are valid and supported with proper engineering and certifications. Additionally, ask for or recommend that an application layout is done to ensure that the right amount of light levels and uniformity are being delivered for that application. Regardless of how it is was lit before in the case of a renovation; the space and needs may have changed and therefore, so should the lighting.

DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry just one thing about LED outdoor area luminaires, what would it be?

McKinney: Depending on the application, LEDs represent 60 – 99% of our total sales in Outdoor area lighting and growing rapidly. With hundreds of thousands of installations, we’re confident in the technology when designed properly, and we’re very excited about the future of LEDs and integrated systems to enhance all of our lives. This is truly a very exciting time in the Lighting Industry.

DiLouie: Is there anything else you’d like to add about this topic?

McKinney: Many companies, including ours, can provide educational opportunities to assist in the continued education and advancement of LED and systems knowledge. Just ask. We’re here to help.