By Scott Sherwood and David Shiller
Power over Ethernet (PoE) lighting emerged from the IT industry, which built upon technology from the 48VDC telecom industry. More on PoE lighting origins can be found here. In 2023, PoE lighting had a rough year with significant players going out of business, diminishing in market presence, as well as technical problems plaguing less thought-out installations.
Igor Technologies, a major PoE lighting player, closed its business July 15, 2023, leaving many clients to seek new vendors to manage and service their existing systems. Platformatics, another PoE lighting leader, was acquired by H.E. Williams, a luminaire manufacturer. Since acquisition, Platformatics appears to have scaled back R&D, has declined in market presence, and is rumored to be interested in selling IP. Another major PoE player, Molex, has raised eyebrows for rapid and significant price increases on its PoE lighting systems. This may price Molex out of many new construction projects.
There are other challenges for PoE lighting systems. They have higher first costs than traditional line voltage lighting. Technical problems and delays can add additional costs. Supply chain challenges during and since the pandemic have also had negative impacts. System integrators need more experience and training to fully realize the potential that PoE has to offer. This is critical to prevent technical problems that scare away projects. Lastly, building end users need resources to get the most value out of their PoE lighting systems, and these end user resources are lacking.
One could extrapolate these problems and predict that PoE lighting is not going to make it. That would be a mistake. There are a number of larger market forces that will make PoE adoption more attractive over time. PoE lighting is undeniably going through a rough patch, however.
PoE lighting has some inherent advantages for new construction of smart buildings, including: robustness, flexibility, reduced copper requirements, reduced labor costs for installation, and the ability to serve high-performance devices. From a sustainability perspective, PoE is a strong choice. PoE can help deliver smart buildings with efficiency gains across lighting, HVAC, plug load, and security. In addition, having an ecosystem of connected devices allows for the collection of real-time data that enables advanced reporting and fault diagnostics.
Looking forward, the greatest trend for PoE lighting is the steadily growing market for smart buildings. PoE provides a unique integration of data and power, up to certain wattage limits per device. With megatrends like electrification, smart buildings, microgrids, and onsite renewables, PoE lighting systems will continue to evolve and likely gain market traction. Some market research reports project the global PoE lighting market size to reach $2.021 Billion in 2030, with an enviable CAGR of 26.5%.
New low-voltage DC technologies are on the horizon ready to try to disrupt the PoE market, however, market adoption of new technologies can be slow. In January 2023, PoE lighting companies, that are traditionally competitors, came together to form the PoE Consortium to educate the market and foster a larger market adoption of PoE systems.
What do you think the prospects are for PoE lighting systems going forward? Please comment below.
About The Authors:
Scott Sherwood is an energy efficiency professional who has spent over 25 years in the construction industry specializing in the lighting and renewable energy markets. He has owned his own electrical contracting company, built an energy services and renewable energy division for a large electrical distributor, and now serves as an industry consultant as Founder and President of Dynamic Energy Solutions of Arizona.
David Shiller is the Publisher of LightNOW and President of Lighting Solution Development, a leading consulting firm in the lighting industry.