Tech giants could be first to the smart lighting prize

The lighting industry could lose out to big IT companies as smart lighting takes off, industry figures have warned.

Discussing whether connected lighting is ‘hype or hit’ at the International Lighting Fixture Design Conference, Dominic Meyrick, partner at Hoare Lea, said: ‘Look at Apple, they’re all about connecting. If you bring your product toward IT, the IT world will take over.’

One of the issues that will be raised as lighting moves closer to the IT industry is the short product cycles of connected technology. Jeremy Turner, director of Fab Controls said: We’re turning a functional product into an IT product. Everyone has got a phone and most of them are no more than two years old. In three years they will all be on a scrap heap somewhere. If we assume a light fixture lasts 25 years, what are we going to have in 25 years’ time?’ He continued: ‘Wireless chips are not designed for long-term installation – you are going to shorten the lifespan of a luminaire if you add extra intelligence to it.’

Meyrick said: ‘With gadgets, there is an acceptance that in 10 years’ time you’ll have to replace something, whereas buildings are built to last. With smart lighting, these two worlds will meet.’

Asked whether connected lighting offers an opportunity for lighting manufacturers to upsell their products and move from commodities into services, David Scott-Maxwell, R&D manager of Forge Europa said: ‘We should really walk before we can run. The LED uptake is still a tiny proportion of the market.’

Hugh Martin, CEO of US firm Sensity Systems which provides technology for data mining through connected lighting systems, believes the lighting ad IT sectors are moving closer to each other from both sides: ‘A few years ago, the Consumer Electronics Show was all about gadgets. Now it’s about software and connections. The same will happen to the lighting industry, and you’ll see Cisco and Google there.’