As I gear up and get ready to attend Lightfair International in a couple of weeks, I can’t help but think how much more confusing this product segment must be for you today versus just one year ago. In our lighting-themed issue last year, our cover story (“LEDs Still a Mystery to Many Contractors”) discussed how much confusion existed in the electrical contractor community when it came to the specification, purchase, installation, and maintenance of various components of an LED-based lighting system. That story pointed out your concerns with the quality and reliability of products from new suppliers, the difficulty of comparing and contrasting products from different sources, and the challenge of figuring out where to turn for training. These issues left many of you in a state of confusion and dissatisfaction. A second story in that issue introduced you to the concept of connected and responsive lighting system design. It briefly touched on the components of a digitally addressable luminaire, advancements in wireless protocols and standards, and the concepts of a “smart” lighting system.
Fast forward a year, and the changes taking place in this market segment are now being characterized as truly disruptive. Some major players in the supply world are exiting the legacy lamp and luminaire market — and even the chip market — due to extreme competition and margin erosion. In addition to already watching a major transformation take place in the outdoor lighting world over the past couple of years, we’re now seeing major announcements being made on the Internet protocol front with regard to indoor solid-state lighting systems. For example, Philips Lighting has formed strategic partnerships with the likes of Cisco, SAP, and Bosch on the lighting networking front. In the indoor building lighting area, it’s all about Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) technology advancements. Cisco’s Digital Ceiling initiative includes partners like Cree, Orion, Molex, and several others. A quick look at the technical sessions at Lightfair reveals numerous presentations on these same topics, and how all of this ties back into the broader discussion of how future lighting systems could become the backbone of the building Internet of Things (IoT) network.
As we typically do each year, we’ll listen in on some of the key technical presentations and meet with a large number of manufacturers and service providers on the exhibit floor to soak up as much knowledge as we can. We’ll then report back to you on the key trends we identified during this time. But in the interim, we asked freelance writer Tom Zind to pull together a cover story for us on the topic of connected lighting systems. His article, “Lighting’s New Bright Idea,” sets the stage for the convergence of digital lighting and traditional IT-based equipment into a single system, and outlines how this is a total game changer for the industry. The individuals he interviewed for this article also comment on how these changes might affect you and your business in the coming years.
So the questions you need to be asking yourself right now are: What effect will this have on my business? What changes do I need to make now to capitalize on the current chaos? Who are my current and future competitors in this new landscape? And which players do I need to align myself with to ensure my future success?
Answering these questions will not be easy. But if you want your company to continue to shine, I suggest you sort this out in a hurry.