This time last year I set out what I predicted would be the big trends in the lighting industry for the coming 12 months. It’s a hazardous game, predictions, especially in a remarkably uncertain market with many variables. With that in mind, let’s mark my homework from last year…
The supply chain will break down TRUE, PARTLY
I said that the client-specifier-manufacturer-wholesaler-contractor supply chain, familiar to us all, would warp under the strain of direct-buying FMs and margin-chasing contractors bullying manufacturers for rebates. And while this has partly happened, ‘break down’ is clearly overstating the case.
Power Line Communication will go mainstream FALSE
I foresaw a world in which power line communication would become a widely-adopted and popular alternative to cabled and wireless lighting control. Well, I was wrong. It’s a niche application that suits certain building topologies and specific applications, and it looks like it will stay niche.
Consolidation will accelerate TRUE
I asserted this time last year that the acquisition of iGuzzini by Fagerhult wouldn’t be the last major takeover in the lighting industry, and guess what? I was right. Falling prices is continuing to drive consolidation. Most eye-catching was Signify’s billion-quid purchase from Eaton of Cooper Lighting Solutions.
Bluetooth Mesh will gain traction TRUE
I forecast that Bluetooth mesh technology’s entry into the premier league of leading wireless protocols would be a smooth one and I was right, but you could argue I wasn’t sticking my neck out too much on this one. What will be interesting to watch in 2020 will how Bluetooth-pioneer Casambi pivots in this space to retain its leadership position.
VR will arrive as a design tool FALSE
I speculated that virtual reality would be the hot new design tool of 2019 and something to get clients excited about the possibilities of lighting in their buildings. While I fully expect VR to go mainstream at some stage, 2019 was not that year.
Visual comfort will move up the agenda TRUE
I wagered that the emphasis on the energy-saving narrative of LED lighting would lose its lustre and that the quality of that lighting would come to the fore. Glare and flicker would be major baddies while a premium would be put on high CRIs and appropriate colour temperatures. There is lots of evidence that major clients and suppliers are taking a lead on this.
Smart hubs will be cut out TRUE
I predicted that the tangle of twinkling ‘smart hubs’ and ‘intelligent bridges’ you need to get your lamps connected to the internet would become a thing of the past. The trend was led by the release early in 2019 of the C by GE lamps and was followed by a wave of lighting which connected directly to Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple’s HomeKit and even Siri.
Self-learning control will arrive FALSE
I was dazzled by the stunning success of Nest’s digital thermostats and surmised that lighting controllers too, would learn about a user’s habits over time and anticipate changes. Intuitive control seemed to me to be the logical next step. I was encouraged when Helvar introduced its Active+ system, but overall this wasn't a trend in 2019.
1970s design is back FALSE
I prophesied that the big trend in interiors would be a return to the 1970s but this time with better materiality and softer colours. I said product designers would ‘blow the cobwebs off Concord and iGuzzini catalogues from the era’ in the search for inspiration. Well, they didn’t. But hey, I’m a guy who thinks Gap is still trendy – what do I know about fashion?
Modular design will spread TRUE
In January 2019 I wrote: ‘LED luminaire makers can’t believe their luck. They’ve got away with integral products where extracting a failed driver or light source is harder than getting compensation from Ryanair. Expect Eco Design legislation to tighten and put pressure on manufacturers to have deconstruct-able luminaires’. Major brands are now working on modular luminaires – expect to see the fruits at Light + Building in March.
- I make that four ‘falses’, five ‘trues’ and one ‘partly true’. Phew! So I’ll be more modest in my predictions for 2020. I suggest colour-tuning in offices will go mainstream, that zero-blue lighting will become a ‘thing’, and that the industry will – finally – wake up to its problem with waste. So what’s YOUR prediction for 2020?