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Lightfair recap: What shined the most and where do we go from here?

By Brian Owen

A few years ago at Lightfair I was asked, “Where are the big guys?” We saw the leaner and new “young” LED technology companies coming onto the scene with interesting designs and products. The new companies, although most usually underfunded, were more innovative and able to adapt at a quicker pace to bring interesting designs and products to market.

They were carefully and methodically planning their entry into the market. Was it that, or were they waiting to see what the market wanted and what the buyers, distributors and retailers wanted to sell? Were they observing what those new players were doing? Were they looking for strategic markets to enter for both the commercial and consumer markets? It was likely all of the above, but the question was still asked, “Where are GE, Philips and Sylvania?” Fast forward a few years to Lightfair 2012 and we can see some of the answers.

They are definitely all in the race now—with Philips winning the L Prize and bringing to market ENERGY STAR LED A-lamp replacements, GE with innovative offerings in linear replacements in the form of integrated slim panel design and a line of LED A-lamps for consumers. OSRAM Sylvania offering many commercial LED lighting solutions as well as consumer retail product.

Where are the others? The one that has shined in the middle of this LED revolution is CREE. A few years back Cree was little known in the LED space but became a major contender in the manufacture of LEDs and now light engine solutions. What brings CREE to the forefront is their vertical integration? The company was criticized for potentially cannibalizing their own customer market. In reality, Cree was bringing forward product to both commercial and consumer markets through the acquisition of LLF and, most recently, the acquisition of betaLED/RUUD lighting, an industry leader in outdoor and street lighting. Yes, the road is paved with good intentions at CREE and now that same road can be lit with good lighting.

So where are we going? Which direction is the industry taking and what or whose light is guiding us down the path? The answer lies in acquisition, convergence and elimination; leaving the larger stronger companies when the dust settles. Those younger companies, some still with the greatest products, will have to become more aggressive and consistent to fend off the giant. It is obvious this is now occurring and it will be a sad day for some of those bright innovators when a future article asks, “Where are they now?”

So with my commentary in mind, here are some of the things observed in three days at Lightfair:

GE reports that designers can dress bland commercial ceiling space in chic new style with Lumination™ Luminaires and other bright indoor LED ideas from GE Lighting Solutions. A Lumination slim suspended fixture and 1’x4′ recessed troffer are now available to exquisitely attire office, retail or hospitality settings.

The Lumination Suspended fixture delivers remarkable light output in an ultra-thin design and was recognized as a winner in the Next Generation Luminaires™ (NGL) 2012 Indoor Competition, linear pendant lighting category. The Suspended Luminaire is an entirely new aesthetic that combines direct and indirect lighting in one highly efficient, translucent LED luminaire. A clear, narrow band surrounds the edge of the fixture, making the light source appear to float through the air.

GE also unveiled a light-emitting diode replacement for the 100-watt incandescent light bulb at LIGHTFAIR that packages 27 watts of input power in a standard “A-19” bulb shape. The GE Energy Smart® 27-watt LED bulb incorporates proprietary synthetic jet technology that was enabled by GE’s collaboration with ecomaginationSM Challenge winner Nuventix, creator of LED cooling technologies for energy-efficient lighting. GE’s 9-watt LED (40-watt incandescent replacement) was the first incandescent-shaped (A-19) LED in the world to earn ENERGY STAR® qualification.

GE testing confirms 100-watt incandescent replacement metrics: 1,600+ lumens, uniform omnidirectional light distribution, 3000K color temperature, 25,000-hour life rating (22.8 years at 3 hours per day), dimmable, no mercury, instant full brightness and 60+ lumens per watt – all fitting neatly in the standard A-19 bulb shape.

Bridgelux Inc., a developer and promoter of LED lighting technologies, and Toshiba Corporation, a semiconductor manufacturer, announced that the two companies have achieved the industry’s top class 8” GaN on Silicon LED chip just months after they have engaged in a collaborative agreement. Bridgelux and Toshiba will further accelerate their development efforts for LED chips, which have seen increasing demand for lighting systems worldwide. Toshiba has also made an equity investment in Bridgelux with the intent to jointly pursue an innovative technology in the Solid State Lighting (SSL) space.

In its most ambitious ENERGY STAR® product submittal to date, Amerlux gained UL, cUL, EEC, DOE and EPA listings and qualifications for its Contour Vertical LED Track  and LED recessed and semi-recessed Cylindrix 3, meeting the latest ENERGY STAR® Program V1.1 requirements to-date. Amerlux recently received ENERGY STAR® approval for its innovative Hornet Line Voltage LED Track and Recessed and Semi-Recessed Multiple luminaires.

Carmanah Technologies Corp. is launching the EG145 solar outdoor street lighting system, the company’s latest addition to its most cost-effective solar-powered outdoor lighting system series to-date. With the addition of this next-generation EG-series system, which provides freeway-level light output from a compact form designed to withstand extreme elements, Carmanah now provides a complete range of solar-powered outdoor lights that address the needs of cost-sensitive markets requiring powerful standalone lighting solutions.

The EG145 solar LED outdoor streetlight is capable of providing just under 3,000 lumens (dusk-to-dawn) for outdoor urban roadway, path and area lighting applications, making it a reliable and robust lighting solution. Through an advanced Carmanah energy management system, the EG145 takes advantage of high cascading efficiencies from solar panel, to charge controller, battery and LED driver. By reducing energy losses and maximizing energy collection, storage and usage, the total system cost is reduced while producing greater light output (energy usage) than any other product for its size in the marketplace. The result is a highly efficient, cost-effective and powerful standalone solar lighting alternative that can significantly reduce project and installation costs where grid-power is either unavailable or costly to access.

Integrating clean architectural styling, robust die-cast aluminum construction and best-in-class optical performance for the most challenging specifications, WAC Lighting introduced the Plana recessed downlight family. With hundreds of task specific custom options, this extensive series of architectural grade recessed downlights complements WAC’s Lightfair Innovation Award-winning Paloma family of track luminaires. Plana provides a broad range of lamping options including energy efficient Xicato “Artist Series” LEDs, which achieve extraordinary high levels of color rendering (CRI), consistent color appearance and perfect uniformity.  Metal Halide, Halogen and PAR lamp options are also available.

There was so much to see in lighting and especially in LED, once again dominating this year’s Lightfair. In a separate article, I will recap the last two days of presentations, which all carried the message of caution when specifying or buying LED.

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