Category: Interviews + Opinion

My Interview with Jerry Mix on LED Suspended Lighting

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jerry Mix, CEO of Finelite. The topic: LED suspended general lighting. I’m happy to share his responses with you here. The interview informed…

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jerry Mix, CEO of Finelite. The topic: LED suspended general lighting. I’m happy to share his responses with you here. The interview informed an article I wrote coming up in the February 2016 issue of tED.

DiLouie: How would you characterize the market for suspended general lighting luminaires?

Mix: If you had asked this question five years ago, we would have said that suspended lighting was a stable to shrinking market. Today it is absolutely expanding. LEDs are the enabling technology that is making this growth possible.

DiLouie: Suspended luminaires may be direct, indirect, direct/indirect or indirect/direct? What is the most popular way to categorize direct/indirect and indirect/direct in terms of % uplight vs. downlight?

Mix: The most widely specified product is an indirect/direct luminaire with a glare-free direct component and a higher indirect output. Due to the programmability of many LED power supplies and the ability to build luminaires to custom lengths, customers have an infinite number of configurations to choose from.

DiLouie: How would you characterize penetration and growth of LED lighting in this category? What would you estimate the percentage of current unit sales of LED suspended general lighting luminaires versus other light source types in 2015?

Mix: Architects and Lighting Designers are using LED suspended lighting luminaires in ways that were not possible with fluorescent technology. As a result, the growth of this lighting in the commercial space is gaining share versus legacy approaches.

DiLouie: How does that compare to five years ago?

Mix: Five years ago, this category was stuck in neutral. Benefits of fluorescent technology stopped at energy efficiency and good lighting quality. Shapes were mature and applications pretty repetitive.

DiLouie: Besides energy efficiency and longer life, are there any particular advantages of LED technology in this category?

Mix: LED technology lets luminaires be tailored to the architecture of the building. For today’s projects, you can choose the watts, lumen output, color temperature, lengths to 1/16th of an inch and configurations to meet architectural needs. Well-designed LED luminaires let the lighting system be part of the building structure with an expected lifetime of 30 to 50-years. When architects understand this is possible, they want to use these luminaires on every job.

DiLouie: What typical energy savings are possible compared to linear fluorescent in a new construction scenario involving linear suspended luminaires?

Mix: Today a LED suspended luminaires can deliver up to 120 lumens per watt of efficient, glare free lighting. The best fluorescent luminaires deliver 80 to 100 lumens per watt.

DiLouie: LED lighting has been stratifying similarly to conventional lighting, with white goods and specification segments. How would you characterize LED suspended luminaires in each of these segments?

Mix: Projects are moving away from white goods and towards tailored LED lighting because the offerings are so compelling when considering the whole package.

DiLouie: What are the top three trends in LED suspended lighting?

Mix:
1) No boundaries when making choices. Any length, any lumen output, lots of CCT choices. Finelite calls it Tailored Lighting.
2) Lots of fun configurations, squares, pentagons, through walls.
3) Selectable and controllable color temperature is coming fast.

DiLouie: With dimmable drivers standard or a standard option for a majority of LED luminaires, LED lighting in general offers good opportunities with lighting controls. One strategy that can increase occupant satisfaction is personal dimming control with dedicated workstation lighting. On LED projects, how would you characterize demand for designs with dedicated workstation luminaires and, separately, personal dimming control?

Mix: For enclosed offices, local dimming control is important. However, we are not seeing this in open offices. Why? When properly combined with task and vertical lighting layers of light, the ambient light levels are such that individual control does not provide the payback to justify the incremental cost and there is no significant increase to user preference to help offset the cost and complexity of that type of granular control of the ambient light. Task lighting for open plan workstations continues to be a better way to give individual users control over the lighting for their unique tasks.

DiLouie: Advances in LED source technology have impacted luminaire design from optics to integrated control to smaller luminaires. Please describe the ways in which the LED source has impacted luminaire design and what benefits these developments present.

Mix: Today’s LED is smaller and brighter than most of us ever imagined. However, users are learning that glare control is very important. Even a mid-power LED operating at 0.2 watts is so bright and small that it requires careful luminaire design to minimize glare.

DiLouie: How would you characterize the retrofit opportunity for linear suspended luminaires replacing either fluorescent linear suspended luminaires or troffers?

Mix: The retrofit market for suspended luminaires is a significant opportunity. It will mean a complete fixture replacement. LED luminaires may have the same foundational look and shape as the existing fluorescent linear suspended luminaires but the optics and construction are completely different. It will result in a 30-50% improvement in energy efficiency on a 1 for 1 replacement with more control, flexibility and longer life.

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

Mix: The reasons to light spaces with LED suspended luminaires have never been more compelling. Today, you can have it all. You get energy efficient, high quality light that is affordable, ships in 10 working days, and is tailored to your requirements.

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

Mix: For now, not every manufacturer can provide tailored lighting. Know what you are getting and pick you partners carefully.

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Do Cyber Criminals Have Their Eye on the Grid?

As LED lighting integrates with building automation systems and provides a platform for Big Data, cyber security may become an important issue. Jerry Plank’s column in the September issue of…

As LED lighting integrates with building automation systems and provides a platform for Big Data, cyber security may become an important issue. Jerry Plank’s column in the September issue of LD+A discusses the issue.

Interesting reading. Read it here.

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My Interview with Scott Roos and Kristin Fedoruk on LED High-Bay Lighting

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Roos, Vice President, Product Design, and Kristin Fedoruk, director, Energy Sales and Solutions, Juno Lighting Group. The topic: LED high-bay lighting. I’m…

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Roos, Vice President, Product Design, and Kristin Fedoruk, director, Energy Sales and Solutions, Juno Lighting Group. The topic: LED high-bay lighting. I’m happy to share her responses with you here. The interview informed an article I wrote for the September 2015 issue of tED.

DiLouie: How would you characterize current and future demand for LED high-bay lighting in the new commercial building market? Retrofit market?

Roos: LED high-bays are equally well suited for both new construction and retrofit applications. However, the reality of the current market is that there are simply many more retrofit project opportunities available. One-for-one retrofits are driving most of the market and this will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

Fedoruk: Due to the falling price of higher wattage LED luminaires during the past couple of years, the opportunity is now greater for an end user’s return on investment to increase. It becomes a very attractive proposition – especially when figuring the cost of waiting on a traditional sourced high-bay replacement with a LED high-bay. In addition, LED fixtures can be eligible for rebates from utilities and LED fixtures require virtually zero maintenance for many years.

DiLouie: What market share does LED lighting have against HID and fluorescent in the new construction high-bay lighting market?

Roos: In dollars we estimate that LED high-bay lighting will account for over half the sales in this category in 2015. If we measure in units, however, LED high-bay penetration looks to be around 20 percent, but is growing rapidly at more than 25 percent per year. At that rate it won’t be long before LED captures dominant share both in terms of unit and dollar sales.

DiLouie: What advantages does the LED source offer compared to fluorescent and HID for these luminaire types?

Sep-2015_TED-LED-highbay-DiLouie-1Roos: In comparison to metal halide, LED has five times longer life, much higher lumen maintenance and instant start capability, which of course comes into play when using them with controls. 0-10V dimming has become a standard, and on/off or high/low sensors are a popular option. Based on mean lumens, fixture efficacies can be more than double when comparing to older probe start technology or 40 percent higher when comparing to the most efficient generation of electronically ballasted Pulse Start metal halide lamps. These savings can be substantially higher if lighting controls such as occupancy sensors and daylight harvesting are used, which were not practical to apply with most HID systems.

Compared to linear fluorescent, LED high-bays can have up to two-and-a-half times longer life – although to be fair – there are now longer life linear fluorescent lamp options that compare favorably with LED L70 lifetimes. LED luminaire efficacies of over 100 lumens per watt can be 30 percent higher than the typical fluorescent high bay, which translates directly into energy savings. The potential of LED technology to maximize energy savings and return on investment can be best realized on new construction projects that are not locked into fixture spacing based on older technologies. This is because LED high-bays with advanced optical design can more precisely and uniformly distribute fixture lumens, allowing the use of fewer luminaires spaced further apart.

DiLouie: How would you characterize current LED high-bay luminaire offerings in terms of light output, sizes, optics, wattages, CRI, color temperatures, service life, and compatibility with or integration of lighting controls?

Roos: On all of these criteria LED high-bay luminaires have the ability to perform extremely well. How well depends on how a manufacturer thermally and optically designs the luminaire and selects/bins/operates the LEDs. Like any other category of products, when trying to meet the lowest market price levels, some of the performance will be compromised. For example, driving the LEDs especially hard in attempt to reduce the LED count will lower fixture efficacy and shorten the L70 life. And LED high-bays are generally very easy and economical to integrate with lighting control systems; often the standard driver has dimming capability.

DiLouie: What are typical energy savings for a design with HID or fluorescent versus LED high-bay lighting, assuming an equivalent maintained light level?

Roos: The savings are greatest in comparison to outdated Probe Start Metal Halide systems, where a two to three times energy savings can be expected, especially in an application that the fixtures are on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Compared to more efficient Pulse Start Metal Halide lamps, energy savings in the range of 30 to 40 percent are typical. On top of that additional savings can be achieved with the use of controls such as occupancy sensors or daylight harvesting that are generally not practical with HID lamps. As compared to linear fluorescent high bays, a 30 percent energy savings would be typical when converting to a well-performing LED high-bay.

DiLouie: What are the top trends in LED high-bay luminaire design? Please note the differences in how these LED luminaires are designed differently from their HID and fluorescent competitors.

Roos: There are three general types of LED high-bay luminaire designs:

The most efficient are ones that place discrete TIR optics over each LED in a large array to very precisely and efficiently distribute the light. This type of fixture makes the best use of the available lumens and substantially fewer lumens can achieve similar levels of light when compared to traditional technologies. These fixtures are generally higher in cost due to the number of LEDs, optics and wiring harnesses involved in the design. They can also be difficult to justify on one-for-one retrofit projects, as fixed luminaire spacing based on the limitations of legacy technologies do not take full advantage of their extraordinary optical performance.

Next are rectangular fixtures that mimic the general design of linear fluorescent high-bays. These fixtures typically use linear arrays of lower power LEDs that operate at efficacies of 30 percent or higher when compared to linear fluorescent lamps, which is why they outperform them, even though there is nothing exotic about the optical control.

Finally, there are round form factor LED high-bays that are modeled after the classic HID large reflector or refractor designs. Often these fixtures use single or multiple high-wattage chip on board arrays, sometimes in combination with a glass secondary optic. This type of fixture can be expected to outperform its metal halide counterpart primarily because of the high efficacy of the current generation of chip on board arrays that are used, which can now exceed 150 lumens per watt. Another advantage of this form factor is the round design is most resistant to physical damage when fitted with a wire guard, which is why they are often preferred in applications like gymnasiums where they are more vulnerable. In addition, some commercial and retail applications want to preserve an industrial factory aesthetic with either a plain or decorative round high-bay form factor.

DiLouie: What are the top trends in high-bay lighting in general, and how is this affecting high-bay luminaire design?

Fedoruk: Customers followed electrical distributors’ recommendations for the past 15 years on energy savings. They’ve switched from probe start metal halide to pulse start metal halide or linear fluorescent high-bays. Next, the linear fluorescent customers looked at linear LED (either LED lamp replacements or full fixture). There are still a lot of round high-bay traditional metal halide fixtures out there (either probe or pulse start) and those customers never bought in to the look of linear fixtures. Whether it’s due to the distribution or just physical aesthetics – the need for the round LED high-bay is still there.

DiLouie: What are the main attributes of an LED high-bay luminaire that electrical distributors would be looking at when considering an LED over an HID or fluorescent product?

Fedoruk: If the electrical distributors have the opportunity to offer their customer one or the other, there are many considerations – especially what is important to the end user. Is it service life? Efficiency? Lumen output? Color? CRI? Most LED fixtures have a much better CRI than the traditional probe metal halide. Finally, in industrial environments, the need for lenses in case of a non-passive HID lamp failure (or explosion) is an insurance necessity, while with LED there is no lamp that can fail non-passively. Lenses may alter the output of the luminaire as much as 10 percent.

DiLouie: What are disadvantages or potential pitfalls in selecting or using high-bay LED products that distributors should be aware of, and how they should they mitigate them?

Roos: Higher ambient environments can be a challenge, especially on driver temperatures. Of course, higher ambient environments have always been a challenge even with conventional technology fixtures with electronic ballasts. Distributors should make sure to know the ambient temperatures for the application and select a product that has been designed for that type of environment. Also, chemical contamination is a concern with LEDs. For example, in a manufacturing environment where chemicals are being used, it is best to work with the end-user to identify the specific substances, and then ask the luminaire manufacturer to validate whether or not those particular chemicals will interact with the LEDs.

DiLouie: How do the control capabilities of LED high-bay lighting compare to HID and fluorescent, and what benefits can be achieved?

Roos: LEDs are much easier to dim than either HID or linear fluorescents, and often times the standard driver supplied with the fixture is dimmable at no additional cost. The life of the LED is not affected, even with frequent on-off cycles.

Fedoruk: In many institutional facilities there are multi-use areas (for example, gymnasiums) that in the past were always equipped with metal halide fixtures with wire guards. Now attractive instant-on dimmable luminaire (still with wire guard if needed) are available, and they can be controlled instantaneously for a play, recital, concert or basketball game.

DiLouie: In retail high-bay, issues such as color and sparkle come to the forefront. How competitive is LED compared to ceramic metal halide and similar sources in these applications? What does LED bring to the table that’s unique?

Roos: We have seen most of our retail high-bay lighting customers switch to LED. The advantages of energy savings, longer life and controls integration have trumped any concerns about “sparkle” and color. Frankly, the color rendering of today’s generation of LEDs is superior to what we were able to achieve as compared to either fluorescent or ceramic metal halide. While perhaps not quite as much of a sparkle generator as the arc tube of a CMH lamp, a very high lumen chip on board array in a glass lens still has specular qualities that can generate highlights. We occasionally see retailer preference for CMH trac fixtures for accent lighting because of higher sparkle as compared to LED, but even these instances are becoming fewer as the light emitting surface (LES) of the popular COB arrays gets even smaller.

DiLouie: What impact is the proliferation of LED products having on electrical distribution business practices in general?

Roos: Electrical distributors are stocking fewer SKU’s both because of the larger variety of fixture options and frequent generational performance upgrades that, if they are not diligent, can leave them with obsolete inventory.

DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry just one thing about LED high-bay lighting, what would it be?

Roos: LED technology is already delivering superior results and the technology will continue to improve and become more affordable. It is highly unlikely that we will go backwards, so it is wise to get on board and learn the new technology.

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My Interview with Chris Brown on Illumigeddon

Earlier this year, I interviewed Chris Brown for tED Magazine. The topic: the impact of SSL technology on electrical distribution. Reprinted with permission. Christopher Brown is CEO of Wiedenbach-Brown, a…

Earlier this year, I interviewed Chris Brown for tED Magazine. The topic: the impact of SSL technology on electrical distribution. Reprinted with permission.

Christopher Brown is CEO of Wiedenbach-Brown, a national full-service lighting and electrical solutions distributor. Prior to the company’s acquisition by USESI in 2006, he was president and chairman of the board for 30 years. He witnessed the company grow from a New York metropolitan-area lamp and luminaire distributor to a national full-service lighting and electrical solutions provider with relationships with hundreds of clients and more than 300 lighting manufacturers.

Speaking at the Strategies in Light conference in February 2015, Brown sounded an alarm to distribution about what he calls “Illumigeddon”—the end of the lighting industry as we know it. The advent of solid state lighting (SSL), he warned, promised a massive retrofit opportunity in the short term but a decline in lighting MRO sales in the long term due to the extraordinary long life of LED sources. Competition is driving down cost, causing some distributors to eliminate in-house lighting expertise at a time when they need it to compete successfully in a category that is becoming increasingly solid state and digital. And new players and alternate distribution channels are challenging the distributor’s traditional role in supply.

How significant are these challenges, what are their likely impacts, and how will successful distributors not only survive, but thrive, in a solid-state lighting world?

DiLouie: At the Strategies in Light conference, you sounded an alarm for distribution that solid-state lighting represents disruption to today’s business as usual—a short-term retrofit opportunity and a long-term threat. In a nutshell, how do you specifically see LED technology being disruptive both to the lighting industry and electrical distribution today, and a threat in the future?

Brown: SSL is both a classically disruptive new technology, but also a destructive technology. MRO lamp business is going away—it’s only a question of when, not if. And it’s not so much LED technology but the combination of LED and the integration of smart lighting that becomes a threat to both the traditional lighting industry in general and distribution in particular. With Apple, Google, Cisco, Intel, Oracle, Qualcomm, etc. now touching our business, who will be specifying and selling the next generation of smart SSL products?

How does distribution prepare to compete when we don’t know who we will be competing with, what new technical skills will be needed to compete? And fundamentally, how does distribution stay relevant to its clients if it is competing with technology gorillas who may have entirely different business models?

DiLouie: So the opportunity solid-state lighting offers is replacement of conventional lighting products in existing buildings. The tradeoff is the long life of LED sources means fewer lamps will be sold. Meanwhile, solid-state lighting is attracting new players that may not sell through the traditional lighting and electrical distribution channel. What can electrical distributors do to prepare for and mitigate the impact, particularly if the timing and scope of change aren’t clear?

Brown: First, distributors must figure out how to stay relevant to their clients in the age of Illumigeddon. Second, distributors have to stay abreast of new lighting technologies and the new players in lighting, and figure out how to become relevant and necessary to them.

DiLouie: You bring up a related issue, which is that solid-state lighting is shaking up the traditional lighting manufacturing business. Distributors are now faced with many new suppliers they will have to qualify. How would you recommend distributors qualify new suppliers? What are the key components of this evaluation?

Brown: Standard common sense criteria—reputation of the vendor, quality of the product, personal comfort with the company representatives, and all the other traditional lighting industry issues, such as terms, policies, new business opportunities. But SSL brings additional digging: UL listing, LM79, performance warranties, product availability, inventory management, return policies for old-generation product and more.

DiLouie: Suppliers are bringing new products to the market, which also require qualification. Complicating things is shorter product cycles than have traditionally held true in the lighting industry. How should distributors qualify new products than are different from traditional products, and how should they adapt their business practices to shorter product cycles?

Brown: Same answer as your last question, but I’d add to that literally testing new product, comparing performance and benefits to competitive product, understanding and insisting on future-proofed product, and again managing inventory to ensure that distributors don’t get stuck with devalued earlier generation product.

Bottom line, SSL and smart lighting are the new game in lighting, and distribution has the challenge to learn a new language, improve technical skills, create new business alliances, innovate and stay relevant to both clients and vendors.

DiLouie: In a generic sense, what core capabilities and value does a good distributor offer the customer that can’t be easily displaced? Value they could enhance to remain competitive in an SSL world?

Brown: Let me turn your question around. A good distributor is just that—a good distributor, of which there are hundreds, most indistinguishable from each other. A great distributor, on the other hand—which everyone should aspire to become—would be an indispensable partner of its clients.

A great distributor is a resource, not just for product but technical information, solutions, service, industry knowledge beyond SSL and proactive recommendations on efficiency in general. And a great distributor is going to have relationships with great manufacturers, reps, designers and other solution providers in the lighting and efficiency equation.

And finally, a word about personal relationships. Know your client personally. Knowing their wants and needs may sound old school, but it’s more important now than ever, as clients are going to be faced with decisions about their existing business relationships unique to SSL and smart lighting in the age of Illumigeddon.

DiLouie: A prevailing view of LED appears to be that a finished lighting product is an appliance. You use it, you throw it away. However, there is a growing emphasis on serviceability and standardization that supports that. Do you see a future upgrade market for distributors based on luminaires with serviceable (and upgradable) components such as light engines, optics and drivers?

Brown: Possibly, but more likely to happen if the distributor can offer the maintenance/retrofit service itself as an additional value-added solution.

DiLouie: Commensurate with the LED revolution has been a revolution in lighting control. Many LED luminaires are dimmable as a standard feature, and the technology offers new dimensions of control such as color tuning, visible light communication and the Internet of Things. Many luminaire manufacturers are starting to offer luminaires and controls as integrated packages. While not as disruptive as LED–MRO business is not affected by it–control still presents new challenges to distributors. What are these challenges, and what can distributors do to lead the market?

Brown: Here is where distribution can take the lead and stay in the game with investment in a skilled, experienced controls team—inside and outside sales, project management, troubleshooting and tech support for installation contractors, system maintenance for their clients, etc. The biggest challenge in lighting controls may be staying on top of the new players and new technologies—color tuning, example, and finding the right product for their client’s specific application. Controls and smart Lighting offer new opportunities to offer new quality of light values and benefits to clients. Read Value Metrics for Better Lighting by Mark Rea, in which he proposes new metrics to communicate the true value of lighting.

DiLouie: You say LED is disruptive but that distributors that invest in education and innovation may continue to succeed. Lighting manufacturers are also being forced to innovate, and some are examining their business models. One idea that has been proposed has been selling Light as a Service. As lighting manufacturers explore new business models related to selling Light as a Service, how could the distributor fit into these models and profit from them?

Brown: Light as a Service is becoming a reality. Lighting will be the Trojan Horse of the Internet of Things—the Internet of Everything. The fact that Cisco was a keynote speaker at Strategies in Light this year gives us a clue where SSL is heading.

Today’s lighting distributor should be taking clues from today’s IT value-added resellers and system integrators. Lighting isn’t just about light anymore. It’s about control, it’s about information, it’s about finance, it’s about quality, it’s about efficiency. And lighting distribution needs to be informed and comfortable with a new language and new efficiency concepts and financial strategies in addition to new technology and new players.

DiLouie: What about Light as a Service models for distributors? Going into non-traditional business areas such as controls integration, maintaining the lighting system, upgrading, monitoring light levels, etc.? Do you see a similar opportunity for distributors–that they could position themselves, through in-house capability or alliances, as stewards of an installed lighting system to generate steady revenues? Are there any other opportunities beyond that?

Brown: Great question about a great challenge. This one is not easy to get one’s arms around, but I think it is an enormous opportunity. Think about selling light, not light bulbs. The challenge is figuring out who will do the selling of what will probably be a complex financial product.

The Chicken Little in me thinks that distributors’ best hope in this Light as a Service model is to introduce allies who can pull the package together for existing clients, and stay in the equation supplying product and servicing/maintaining the installation.

The unanswered question in my mind is what happens if/when lighting manufacturers partner with building management system providers, technology companies and financial solution providers in a combined smart lighting/Internet of Things package for the end user. Can distribution provide the value, beyond introducing their client, that will make distribution a necessary member of the equation in a new business model?

DiLouie: One view of technological innovation is that whatever disruption it brings, another technology will follow. However, for a majority of general lighting applications, the efficiency and capabilities of LED would make it very difficult to justify replacement based on today’s retrofit investment criteria. Imagine a new technology that offers similar performance as LED but for a fraction of the energy consumption. By that point, the watts are so low the cost savings may not be enough. Do you believe LED may be the last major lighting technology (based on traditional lighting economics), or do you believe distributors will be have future big upgrade opportunities after the LED conversion based on future lighting technologies?

Brown: I’d like to think there will be Lighting 3.0, but I’m more inclined to agree with Roland Haitz, a retired scientist at Agilent Technologies and creator of Haitz’s Law, which describes the exponential progress of SSL lighting. In a 2010 paper, Haitz writes, “Since Edison’s first installation of electrical over 130 years ago, the industry developed half a dozen new electricity-based lighting technologies, each improving efficacy, cost or quality of light. Over the next decade, SSL will approach the end of the efficacy ladder and meet or exceed the market’s need with respect to cost and quality. There will be little room left to justify the substantial investments needed to develop an alternative newer technology. The series of revolutions in lighting covering the entire history of mankind from campfire to candles to light bulbs to SSL will come to an end. The revolutions in lighting will be over!” While LED may be the “last light source,” however, Haitz adds, and I agree, the LED revolution itself is far from over as integrated solid-state lighting systems create new applications and markets.

DiLouie: Thanks for the though-provoking conversation, Chris. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Brown: Only that Illumigeddon, the end of the traditional lighting industry, is upon us. Some lighting industry players may be out of business already, they just don’t know it yet. But there is great opportunity for those able and willing to invest capital, personal energy and time to carve a role for themselves in the age of SSL and smart lighting.

Follow Chris Brown on this topic more on Twitter at @illumigeddon.

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Interview with Acuity’s Jeannine Fisher Wang on OLED Lighting

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jeannine Fisher Wang, PE, LC – Director Business Development, Acuity Brands. The topic: OLED lighting–where it is now, where it’s going. I’m happy…

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jeannine Fisher Wang, PE, LC – Director Business Development, Acuity Brands. The topic: OLED lighting–where it is now, where it’s going. I’m happy to share her responses with you here. The interview informed an article I wrote for the November issue of tED.

DiLouie: How would you characterize current demand for OLED luminaires? What is the current trend pointing to future demand?

Fisher Wang: The demand for OLED lighting is on the rise. We see the growing demand in a number of ways:

– Designers are gaining experience in using OLED in their projects. This experience and first-hand knowledge of seeing their clients’ reactions to the unique benefits OLED offers has prompted ongoing consideration, design and incorporation of OLED lighting into future projects.
– Cost of OLED lighting has come down 40% or more over the past year, often bringing the cost of OLED lighting on par with certain premium LED systems.
– Performance of OLED lighting systems can meet strict energy standards in demanding general lighting applications.
– Designers are also looking for specialized ways to incorporate OLED into their projects where OLED offers unique solutions in terms of both form factor and quality of light, such as in retail shelf lighting, biophilic designs, signage, and wayfinding for hospitality and healthcare. A great example of this is the recent introduction of Nomi™, which is offered to the market as an architectural sconce with options for integrated ADA-compliant signage including Braille.
– The recent availability of very affordable OLED lighting for the consumer market in major homecenters and online retailers (http://www.acuitybrands.com/oled/consumer-products) has broadened awareness of the viability of OLED lighting for not simply niche but mainstream architectural specification lighting available through electrical distribution.

DiLouie: What types of OLED luminaires are currently available?

Fisher Wang: Acuity Brands is focused on offering a broad portfolio of products to the market. The types of luminaires we see encompass a comprehensive range of products to support primarily corporate, hospitality, healthcare residential interiors and statement spaces in a wide breadth of application areas and architectural lighting segments. Luminaire families encompass expansive types of lighting systems, including ceiling surface-mount, ceiling grid-mount, wall-mount, pendant, sconce, in an extensive range of scales. Products are offered for both commercial and consumer market segments. These luminaire families each find ways of celebrating the qualities of OLED that make OLED lighting unique, whether that be pure expression of light, thinness, innate evocativeness, organic and flowing patterns, softness, flowing forms, iconic shapes, or awe-inspiring simplicity.

We also see an evolving class of luminaires that transform lighting design with the development of Duet SSL™ Technology, an interplay of OLED and LED light sources in the same luminaire, optimizing both to produce refined aesthetics, photometric performance, superior lighting quality and cost effectiveness. Duet SSL blends the use of OLED – celebrated for its soft uniform glow, thin forms and diffused light – and LED – trusted as a strong, focused point source. With Duet SSL Technology, light becomes more personal, architecturally sensitive and engaging, while breaking boundaries in efficient and holistic design. Two new concept families – Imoni™ and Olessence™ – illustrate the category-defining benefits of Duet SSL Technology, showcasing several stylistic embodiments and various applications of this revolutionary new approach in lighting design.

Image courtesy of Acuity Brands.

Image courtesy of Acuity Brands.

DiLouie: What are the most popular applications for today’s OLED luminaires?

Fisher Wang: Like the breadth of luminaire families available, virtually any interior lighting application is ripe with opportunity to use OLED lighting: open office, private office, lobbies & seating areas, conference rooms, auditoriums, lecture halls, galleries, retail transaction counters, retail shelf & display lighting, corridors, transition spaces, dining areas, and living spaces. OLED can either be the primary light source in any of these spaces or used a special design feature.

DiLouie: What are the basic capabilities of today’s OLED area light sources?

Fisher Wang: Typical form factor, including size: Square rigid ranging from 2”x2” to 12”x12”, bar rigid ranging from 1”x4” to 4”x12”, round rigid ranging from 2” to 4” diameter, square flexible up to 12’x12”, bar flexible in 2”x8”, with additional form factors emerging in the market.

Driver: Most drivers are dimmable using 0-10V dimming; some offer dual technology 0-10V and phase cut dimming. Often dimmers are multi-channel with advancements occurring to enable single panels to be driven efficiently and individually, thereby increasing levels of control and interactive functionality.

Lumens: Lumens vary by size and brightness.

Brightness/m2: Generally a nominal 3000 cd/m2 luminance is optimal for interior lighting, although we are seeing some OLED technology capable of up to 10,000 cd/m2. The higher luminance capability is interesting for certain applications where direct view of the OLED light source is not of primary concern, but with today’s technology, the higher luminance comes with a sacrifice in lifetime.
Color temperature: Primarily 3000K, 3500K, and 4000K with some availability in the range of 2700K to 5000K.

CRI: 85-90.

Lifetime: L70 up to 40,000 hrs.

Cost/kL: est $200-500/kL at the panel level.

DiLouie: Where do you believe the technology be within the next five years?

Fisher Wang: Typical form factor, including size: Same form factors as above with more choices becoming available and a shift to flexible substrates.

Driver: We expect a dramatic increase in availability of drivers with electrical characteristics.

Lumens: Same as above.

Brightness/m2: Same as above with less sacrifice of lifetime at the higher luminances.

Color temperature: Full availability in the range of 2700K to 5000K.

CRI: >90 and R9 >50.

Lifetime: L85 up to 50,000 hrs.

Cost/kL: est $20-50/kL at the panel level.

DiLouie: How would you characterize the progress OLED has made in the last 3-5 years?

Fisher Wang: In the last 3-5 years, OLED lighting has progressed significantly in advancing lifetime, reliability, color quality, and decreasing cost. While we expect these advancements to continue in the very near future, we anticipate a renewed focus on increased efficacy and reliability to keep OLED competitive with alternative technologies.

The path of progress in OLED technology is not unlike the path of progress for LED technology. In fact, OLED is relatively much newer than LED and has advanced more rapidly.

DiLouie: What are the benefits of using OLED luminaires compared to other sources?

Fisher Wang: OLED and LED are complementary light sources. OLED is intrinsically a diffused, large area light source, which lends itself to providing soft, glare-free illumination without the need for louvers, reflectors, lenses and other methods of optical control. In comparison, the LED is a point source well suited to directional applications such as downlights and accent lighting. OLED is well suited to area lighting applications such as general ambient office and classroom lighting. OLED is also inherently an approachable light source, which also makes it possible to place the light source closer to the user, enabling new ways of thinking about where the light source can be placed in designs as well as designs based on the concept of application efficiency. People who have experienced OLED lighting in application are literally so attracted to the light source that they are drawn to reach out and touch it. This character is truly unique to OLED and is a major driving force as to why the industry is so excited about what OLED lighting can do today – and in the future.

OLED sources, unlike LED chips, do not get hot during operation, which means they do not require heat sinking. For this reason, OLED can be used in direct contact with materials not necessarily associated with lighting fixtures, such as fabric, wood, plastics and even paper. These possibilities allow OLED to be used in non-traditional luminaires as well as new methods of integration into architectural materials. The future availability of flexible sheets of OLED manufactured in a roll-to-roll processes will further advance these capabilities.

As OLED advances in performance, continues to decline in cost, and takes shape in flexible forms, this technology will continue to advance lighting design and what it can do enhance the spaces where people live, work, and play.

DiLouie: Where does the technology need to be to transcend OLED’s current status as a niche source and reach new applications? What are the odds of this happening, and when might it occur?

Fisher Wang: The biggest challenge for OLED is to become widely available at significantly reduced cost. While OLED is today more affordable than many think, landslide cost reductions are certainly on the horizon as the technology transfers to production using flexible substrates. At present, OLED can be easily be considered for projects with more generous budgets or limit the use of OLED to portions of projects designated as specialty areas. For certain types of luminaires, such as sconces, OLED lighting is already cost competitive with comparable LED solutions. As the cost of OLED continues to come precipitously down, OLED will become cost competitive with the more commodity-type lighting solutions such as recessed LED troffers and linear pendants. The industry is making big investments toward achieving this goal and driving a timeline as short as 3 years from now.

DiLouie: What are good potential applications for OLED that are just developing or otherwise haven’t been explored yet?

Fisher Wang: Many explorations of how OLED can be used in lighting are underway, such as the Duet SSL as previously mentioned; embedding OLED in other materials such as glass; and incorporating OLED lighting into wall, ceiling, flooring, and furnishing materials. Other exciting areas of exploration include understanding how OLED can be used as part of a 24-hour lighting scheme aimed at optimizing circadian entrainment and developing ways OLED can provide enhanced levels of interactivity aimed at creating new uses for light.

While these explorations of what OLED can do will continue to advance not only the technology but also the practice of lighting itself, it is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that OLED lighting is still new, and the OLED lighting products offered today are unique and compelling. The more the industry experiences OLED today, the more rapidly OLED lighting will advance for the future.

DiLouie: What are the best selling opportunities for OLED luminaires for electrical distributors?

Fisher Wang: OLED adds a special flair to any project, and electrical distributors should consider stocking some of the discreet-type OLED luminaires such as wall sconces and individual ceiling-mounted modules to offer their clients immediately available solutions that are truly unique. For larger-scale installations, complete OLED lighting systems, and even custom OLED lighting solutions, electrical distributors should expect a straightforward ordering process and service levels on par with any other high-quality non-stock LED luminaire.

DiLouie: What do electrical distributors need to know about OLED luminaires to make the best recommendation to their customers?

Fisher Wang: Standard OLED lighting products are readily available in the market with all of the same design & specification tools as their LED counterparts – including IES files, BIM models, specification sheets, installations instructions & videos. Likewise, installation and integration with controls systems is straightforward. Reputable manufacturers of OLED lighting products can also provide recommendations on appropriate application of OLED lighting to ensure that lighting performance and energy standard compliance requirements are met. Finally, for many applications, an OLED lighting solution can offer the special qualities of OLED while still being cost competitive with LED.

DiLouie: Distributors are just now getting used to LED technology. Why should they care about OLED? What does OLED bring to the table that particularly will interest them and their customers?

Fisher Wang: The industry cares about OLED lighting because it brings unique design and character of light to projects of all sorts. Any customer interested in making an impact with their lighting would want to consider OLED, and electrical distributors who can differentiate themselves with their ability to offer OLED will leave a lasting impression with their customers. As industry leaders transform from a pipe & wire & hardware business to technology companies, OLED will be at the forefront of progressive solutions that are more than simply technology but a platform that makes lighting so far beyond simply providing the ability to see.

DiLouie: If you could tell all electrical distributors just one thing about selling opportunities with today’s OLED luminaires, what would it be?

Fisher Wang: While OLED is newer than LED, it need not be intimidating! Afterall, OLED is a form of an SSL technology, and industry education has already taught us a great deal.

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

Fisher Wang: OLED luminaires offer amazing design (aesthetics and lighting quality), easy installation, good performance, and reasonable cost. OLED is here and NOW.

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My Interview with Mariana Figueiro on Light and Health

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Mariana G. Figueiro, PhD, Professor and Light and Health Program Director, Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The topic: what we know, what…

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Mariana G. Figueiro, PhD, Professor and Light and Health Program Director, Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The topic: what we know, what we don’t know, and what’s currently actionable in design concerning light and health. I’m happy to share her responses with you here. The interview informed an article I wrote for the December issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR.

DiLouie: The relationship between light and health is now turning into a conversation about best practices related to lighting design and health. How do you feel about where the industry is currently going with this? Do you think we’re getting it right? Where are we getting it wrong?

Figueiro: I think that the industry is in its infancy when it comes to developing products for light and health applications, but at least they are thinking about it and they are now considering this topic in their R&D. My concern is that a lot of the talk is about dynamic lighting systems or blue light. Light and health is much more than these two topics. Correlated color temperature is a factor, but not the only one. Light levels are just as or perhaps even more significant than spectrum alone. Temporal characteristics of light (timing and duration) need to be considered. Timing of exposure is key and depending on whether one is a dayshift or a rotating shift worker, the timing of exposure needed to promote entrainment is different. The same intensity and spectrum of light given in the morning will have a different effect on your sleep time than if it is given in the evening.

Moreover, how much light you get over the course of the day will affect how light will impact your circadian system. The circadian system “sums up” morning and evening light and uses the net result to either advance or delay our biological clock. So, we need to know the characteristics (intensity, spectrum, timing and duration) of our light exposures before we can determine what constitutes healthy lighting for each of us. Also, “morning” for me is different than “morning” for you, so a dynamic lighting system that provides high CCT during the day and low CCT in the evening may be too simplistic, yet, we need to start somewhere and if being simple will help start the process, that works for me.

Our research also shows that red light, which does not affect melatonin production, can increase daytime and nighttime alertness and can affect other hormones, such as cortisol levels. So, it’s not just about blue light.

DiLouie: To summarize as short and sweet as possible, what do we currently know with a fair degree of certainty about the relationship between lighting and health?

Figueiro: 24-hour light-dark patterns reaching the back of our eyes set the timing of our biological clock and exposure to (or lack of) light at the right time or exposure to irregular light-dark patterns for long periods of time can disrupt our biological clock. Disruption of circadian rhythms by irregular light/dark patterns can lead to poor sleep and poor performance, and if experienced over many years, chronically, it can lead to more serious diseases, such as diabetes, obesity and even cancer.

DiLouie: What don’t we know yet? What research is being done to gain this knowledge, and how might it affect lighting practice?

Figueiro: Most of the data we have are from laboratory studies performed under controlled conditions and we have average responses. We do not know much about individual responses and we do not know the exact amount of light needed to affect circadian rhythms outside laboratory conditions. But let me be clear, this does not mean we don’t know enough to start using some of this knowledge in real life applications.

We also don’t know how much light one is exposed to during their waking hours in their own environment. We don’t know whether people will adapt to their light/dark pattern exposures. For example, we measured circadian light exposures in people in Sweden during winter and summer months and we saw a large difference in circadian light exposures, but not much difference in their sleep patterns, though they did report feeling sleepier during the winter days than during the summer days.

DiLouie: What are the “killer apps” for lighting design based on light and health research?

Figueiro: Lighting for older adults, including Alzheimer’s disease patients, is the low hanging fruit. It is ready for prime time, especially in more controlled environments, such as assisted living and nursing homes. This is because they are in a more controlled environment and we can adjust their 24-h light-dark pattern to increase circadian stimulation during the day and reduce it in the evening.

A second close to being a killer app is schools, where we can also control the daytime light exposures. But, for it to be successful, we need to also inform the kids and their parents on what is the best lighting for the evening hours (what to do and what to avoid to do at home).

DiLouie: Do you feel the lighting industry is ready to apply current research to general lighting in commercial buildings beyond these “killer apps”? Is this knowledge actionable for all commercial buildings?

Figueiro: We are ready to start. We talk too much about light at night, but we should also be talking about how little light we are exposed to during the day. Energy codes are bringing light levels in the built environment to levels that are too low for activating the circadian system. So we should be concerned about developing these codes and standards based on visibility only.

Yes, we need to start somewhere, and while I don’t think we can claim we will improve health or performance, we have the potential to impact alertness and reduce sleepiness. Studies have shown that high daytime light levels are associated with an increase in objective alertness, measured using EEG, and a reduction in subjective sleepiness, but not all of the studies show an improvement in performance or better sleep and mood. Light can have an acute alerting effect on people, so, again, it is not just about blue light, acute melatonin suppression and circadian entrainment.

I am comfortable saying that light during the day can increase alertness, but we still don’t know how it can affect health, sleep and performance. Nevertheless, one would argue that high circadian stimulation during the daytime hours and low circadian stimulation in the evening is simply common sense.

DiLouie: What general recommendations would you give to a lighting practitioner hoping to design a lighting system in a commercial building based on current research? How are these recommendations different than current best practice design?

Figueiro: Vertical illuminance is what matters, not horizontal illuminance on the workplane. The addition of windows in the space does not mean one will have greater circadian stimulation. The lighting system cannot be static, but needs to be able to change (light level and maybe spectrum) over the course of the day. Dayshift workers have different needs than nightshift workers, so when designing for a 24-hour facility (e.g., healthcare), the designer needs to account for these differences. Lighting needs to be designed for the individual, not for the building. Task light may be the key. Controls might become essential (manual is fine; they don’t need to be smart controls to avoid extra cost). Short wavelength light matters and it can be good or bad, depending on timing of exposure. Using 6500 K light sources rather than 3500 K may be more common in the future.

DiLouie: What does this look like, exactly? What kinds of sources and equipment would be involved?

Figueiro: We would not be using ceiling lights only; vertical surfaces, such as cubicle walls should be lighted. Task lights that can be controlled by each individual will be more common. Personal lighting systems that can be used to deliver individualized circadian lighting to individuals will be more commonly applied.

DiLouie: There’s only so much the building environment can do to be supportive of circadian regulation during the day. What the user does at home at night is even more important. What general recommendations would you give to the average person?

Figueiro: Correct. It is about the total light exposure during waking hours, so one needs to make sure he/she is not exposed to light levels above 20-30 lux of a warm source starting 2 hours prior to natural bedtimes. Turn off self-luminous displays, or at least dim them down or filter them using orange-tinted filters.

DiLouie:
What is the economic benefit here for the lighting system owner? Why should they care if occupants have proper circadian regulation?

Figueiro: People are the most important asset of an organization. Why not provide them with the best lighting pattern we can? Providing occupants with proper circadian lighting is similar to providing them with ergonomic chairs or flat screen computer monitors.

In addition, offices with daylight are more valuable and can be sold or rented for higher value. The same can be established for offices with good circadian lighting.

DiLouie: Would taking walks and lunch outside be enough? What kind of duration is needed?

Figueiro: Taking walks or lunch outside and working near windows can help provide what’s needed in terms of light intensity. 30 min walk in the morning should be enough. Also, perhaps the office spaces should have a light shower (or light oasis) room where people can bring their laptops and work while getting the light they need.

DiLouie: Is there any harm to implementing circadian lighting in a commercial building? How would you answer critics who see circadian lighting as being potential harmful?

Figueiro: We just said that taking walks outside is important. How is implementing circadian lighting in commercial building different than exposing oneself to daylight during the day? The key is to remember to reduce circadian lighting in buildings where people are working at night. It is also important not to make claims about improved health, well-being, and performance. We have not quantified the benefits of circadian lighting on people outside laboratory conditions. We can only state the benefits based on laboratory conditions, but the science is clear: light is the major regulator of circadian rhythms to the local time on earth. But, it is important to remember that one can be perfectly entrained, but have a social life that will preclude him/her to sleep as long as they should. So, as my grandfather used to say, you can bring the horse to the fountain (add circadian lighting to the buildings), but you cannot force it to drink (one can disrupt himself/herself with other activities and lighting will not be enough to maintain entrainment).

DiLouie: If everybody adopted LRC recommendations for circadian lighting, what would be the benefits?

Figueiro: While we cannot state that everyone will sleep better, we think that a good portion of the population would be more entrained and therefore sleep better. Better sleep is associated with better performance and better health. Moreover, if anything, we will not have dingy, dark environments.

DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry just one thing about lighting and health, what would it be?

Figueiro: Don’t be afraid to try. It may not help everyone, but if it helps only half of the people occupying the building, it is worth it.

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

Figueiro: It seems to me that we know, for sure, that a regular 24-hour light-dark pattern minimizes disruption, which in turn minimizes negative health and performance outcomes. Where we get into trouble is jet airplanes, self-luminous displays, dim interiors, staying up late to watch hockey, and moving from building to building and space to space throughout the day. The 24-hour light-dark pattern is no longer regular and predictable.

The challenge for the traditional lighting and electrical industries is that they have been so closely tied to thinking about a particular building – that’s where one needs to see tasks and perceive ambience instantaneous. Circadian hygiene is not instantaneous, but cumulative. Today, because we have luminous displays and active lives that change our 24-hour pattern of light dark, we do not have a single industry that is responsible for the full 24-hour light exposures patterns, and therefore cannot address the 24-hour light exposure issues.

A new profession needs to emerge, like a personal light and health coach, or a new software app that keeps track of light-dark exposures an provides recipes for maintaining or correcting circadian disruption. We’re not there yet except where people don’t change their living space across the 24-hour day (e.g., senior houses and submarines). The further we get from predictable light exposures, the more likely we are to cause harm.

One area for real impact could be school kids – they have a regular routine at school and with education of parents, light could be better controlled to ensure adequate and consistent sleep. So, now, fix the senior living facilities and next educate teachers and parents about the significance of a robust 24-hour light-dark pattern. Offices are going to be hard, but something like “a light oasis”, where workers can get their circadian light exposures during the daytime (granted that they need to know what they need, and for that, they will likely need a circadian app). Airline pilots, flight attendants and shift workers, nearly impossible.

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Konnerth on LIGHTFAIR and Big Trends

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…

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.

LIGHTFAIR 2015

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.

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Interview with Lighting Designer Galina Zbrizher

Lumec.com recently published an interview with lighting designer Galina Zbrizher of Total Lighting Solutions in Vancouver. Galina had a number of interesting observations about lighting, one of the most salient…

Lumec.com recently published an interview with lighting designer Galina Zbrizher of Total Lighting Solutions in Vancouver. Galina had a number of interesting observations about lighting, one of the most salient being the amount of consideration LEDs require to produce an effective design. She says:

“I find that more attention is needed when designing with LED because oftentimes they’re less predictable in creating lighting effect than other sources. Intensity, diffusion and color variances are difficult to predict from information provided by specifications, and integration is difficult, especially with LEDs from different lighting manufacturers on the same project. Even though LEDs may have very similar specifications in terms of wattage, color temperature, CRI (color rendering index) and R value, they are often very different in intensity, color and color rendition. The other element of LED that I find frustrating is controls compatibility. With one control system and luminaires from different manufacturers, you can bet your bottom dollar that luminaires will all react differently. So in terms of how LED has impacted our design process, it definitely takes more time to design a system with LED. However, LEDs are an incredible resource in today’s toolbox that allow us to achieve amazing things that were just not possible previously. I think we’re all still on a learning curve.”

Click here to read the interview.

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Ted Konnerth on the Internet of Things

Guest post by Ted Konnerth, EGRET Consulting Group Strategies in Light held their first joint conference with the LEDShow during the last week of February. Attendance was solid and the…

Guest post by Ted Konnerth, EGRET Consulting Group

Strategies in Light held their first joint conference with the LEDShow during the last week of February. Attendance was solid and the technical conferences featured four different tracks of presentations covering arcane technical issues to overall market influences on the adoption of LED. On Tuesday, they held their Investor Forum; a mini-version of the popular Shark Tank TV show, Investor Forum features a panel of 8 investors and a rotating presentation of emerging companies.

The conference is by far the industry leader in covering all issues pertinent to LED technology. I came away from the presentations and private meetings with a long list of interesting concepts:

• LED has had over $4B of investments over the past 10+ years and most investors have lost money in the technology. The reasons for the losses varied but one comment by the investor panel was particularly notable:
• The Channel Matters. The investor explained that bringing new technology into a legacy market takes time and energy that was largely unanticipated by the newer entrants. As many of the newer companies were in a rush to revenue, they carved their own paths to market… and mostly failed. I’ve remarked several times over the past 7-8 years that selling light bulbs is a whole lot more complicated than most people believe; and relationships matter.
• M&A valuations for LED have declined. This is a direct response to the loss history. Investors are far more wary of rosy predictions and novel solutions to selling those products.
• Acquisitions have declined. The major strategic companies had a very quiet year of acquisitions in 2014 (Acuity, Eaton, Hubbell, Cree, Philips, GE). They felt that M&A may pick up steam in 2015 and as evidenced by Acuity’s eye-popping valuation for Distech this week… we may be back in acquisition mode.
• IPO’s are expected to rise; primarily fed by the much heralded spin-off of LumiLeds by Philips.
• The available market is still huge; with the replacement lamp market estimated as 45 billion sockets with only 5% filled by LED currently. Ironically, as LED replacement lamps rise, the expected peak is a forecast decline by 2022 as the LED fulfillment and long-life shrinks the market.
• The global fixture market is estimated currently at $59B with $19B being LED. The market is projected to rise to $66B by 2022.
• Low voltage distribution is rising and is seen by many companies as a large movement in the near future; with estimates of construction cost savings of $75/sq ft or more. With LED enabling the low voltage movement, I think this will become the primary mode of power distribution in homes in the near future.
• Lighting is moving quickly into bio-genetics with new bulbs that can affect circadian rhythms, or promote plant growth or farm animal growth and integrate into newer smart devices like Nest.

And then there’s the real future; the Internet of Things (IoT). It was notable that one of the keynote speakers was a senior VP of Cisco. Cisco? At a Lighting show? Really?

Really… Cisco is heavily invested in the technology of IoT; including security and mass-adoption practices. There are currently 12B devices that connect to the internet; globally. By 2020 that number will be over 50B devices.

There are companies already developing data collection and management solutions through lighting that will feed into the Big Data movement. A ‘simple light bulb’ integrated with sensors and communication capabilities can do a lot more than light up your closet.

And one final note… the transition to LED seems to be working despite years of naysayers and skeptics. DOE reported that last year the US saved $1.8B in utility bills. And that number will grow significantly; spurring a rise in the investor-owned utility community to create new revenue streams via promoting solutions that in essence sells less of their product.

The pace of technology growth is the highest of any time in any currently living person’s life. It is exciting, confusing, bewildering and amazing. Enjoy the ride.

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Quantifying Lighting’s Benefits

Peter Boyce, former head of human factors at the Lighting Research Center, recently contributed a very interesting article to LD+A. In his article, Boyce objects to vague claims the lighting…

Peter Boyce, former head of human factors at the Lighting Research Center, recently contributed a very interesting article to LD+A. In his article, Boyce objects to vague claims the lighting industry makes concerning lighting’s impact on productivity and health. These claims, he says, tend to vanish when faced with demands for hard supporting evidence. He also describes the challenges of quantifying these benefits.

Finally, he cites five things the lighting industry needs to more clearly demonstrate lighting’s benefits:

1. Stop making vague claims about the effects of lighting on productivity, safety and health unless supported by clear epidemiological evidence and a plausible mechanism involving lighting.
2. Accept that for many activities, lighting conditions are just one factor amongst many that influence the outcome.
3. Recognize that the main role of lighting is to change visual function and that optimizing visual functions should be the basis of lighting recommendations.
4. Identify what visual functions are relevant to achieving the desired benefits for a range of common activities.
5. Measure the effect of the amount, spectrum and distribution of light on these visual functions.
6. Develop lighting recommendations for a range of common activities based on optimizing the relevant visual functions.
7. Support the collection of field data to test the benefits of different forms of lighting as predicted by the performance of the relevant visual functions.

Click here to read the article.

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