This year’s LightFair International, held in Philadelphia May 21-24, was a well-thought-out affair with manufacturers showing a degree of restraint that reflects an evolving understanding of lighting-anchored IoT's potential and limitations. This was a refreshing change from some of the hype of last year’s trade show.

A second trend on display was an increasing number of products that include a tunable correlated color temperature (CCT) capability, especially in the context of human-centric lighting. Such lighting seems to be experiencing a surge in interest as the industry transitions beyond energy savings as the primary driver of adoption.

There were many technical innovations as well, at least one of which may lead to dramatic changes in how spaces are illuminated in the future.

Current (powered by GE)/Daintree included this display of their sensor portfolio in one easy-to-take-in format. Occupancy sensor data can trigger HVAC operation in a space, as demonstrated by the green light behind the fan (at center). The control system can accept information from other types of sensors including CO2 (bottom center) and pipe leak detection (bottom right).

Current/Daintree’s sensor portfolio

Eaton Lighting’s Ephesus Lumadapt 8 sports light includes tunable white light from eight larger LED modules and colored light from an additional four smaller modules, one in each corner, combining both capabilities into one lighting product. The product draws 440 watts and delivers up to 50,000 lumens.

Eaton’s Ephesus Lumadapt 8 sports light

Standing in a room lit with Cree’s Cadiant artificial daylight system is completely convincing. The “sun” moves across the ceiling panels during the course of the day, mimicking the appearance of the sky. The panels can be custom configured to the needs of the space; the wall-mounted control panel allows for custom settings as well as pre-programmed profiles for spaces like schools, hospitals, and offices. You can see a demonstration of the system below.

Here are five panels of Cree’s Cadiant artificial daylight system.

This semiconductor laser module by SLDLaser has the potential to be a game-changer in how spaces are lit. Two semiconductor lasers emit light onto phosphor in the center of the module. When inserted into a custom housing, the resulting beam has a spread of about two degrees.

SLDLaser’s semiconductor laser module

The Peerless Renna architectural light from AcuityBrands is an innovation in that the light can be redirected using curved elements as shown on the image's left-hand side, where the emitted light changes direction seamlessly from downlight (top) to a wall wash (lower left) to an uplight (bottom).

Acuity’s Peerless Renna architectural light

A personal favorite of mine was OSRAM’s OSCONIQ S 3030 LED package with quantum dots embedded in the package phosphor to improve color rendering without sacrificing efficacy. The innovation of this product is the encapsulation of the quantum dot nanoparticles in a transparent coating that allows for light transmission but protects the dot material from heat and moisture.

This diagram by OSRAM shows quantum dot material in an encapsulation sphere.

And, last but not least, this OLED module by OLEDWorks is made up of separate layers for R, G, and B. No waveguides, heat sinks, or diffusers are required and the module does not get hot. The panel provides diffuse light with no glare or shadowing, no UV, and low blue light content. The image shows the back of a rectangular panel, but the modules are available in numerous shapes and sizes.

Typical OLED panel (reverse side) by OLEDWorks

The lighting industry, having embraced solid state lighting as the path going forward, is now grappling with the monumental potential presented by the use of electronics devices to provide light. Lighting systems will undoubtedly expand their capabilities not only in identified markets like human-centric lighting and horticultural lighting, but also in new frontiers like artificial intelligence, voice-control, public safety, and smart cities.

But there are some potential roadblocks that will need to be addressed. As adoption of wireless networks to control lighting and other building systems increases, the commissioning and maintenance challenges associated with the implementation and day-to-day operation that are part of any wireless network will need to be addressed. In particular, lighting must function reliably to ensure the safety and well-being of building occupants, not to mention to enable occupants to do their jobs, which means lighting networks must be fail-safe. One of the most challenging questions in terms of ensuring reliable system performance is that of network security. In an effort to address this concern, manufacturers of lighting control systems are beginning to incorporate cybersecurity standards requirements into their system designs. Whether this will be sufficient remains to be seen.

Yoelit Hiebert has worked in the field of LED lighting for the past 10 years and has experience in both the manufacturing and end-user sides of the industry.