1 June 2016
LED Jostles for Attention with Smart and Green Lighting at HK Show
Long-hailed as the saviour of the lighting sector, LED had to compete for buyer attention with both smart lighting systems and eco-friendly illumination equipment at the recently-held Spring Edition of the Hong Kong International Lighting Fair.
There are bright prospects in store for smarter, more efficient lighting according to attendees as the recent Spring Edition of the HKTDC Hong Kong International Lighting Fair. This proved to be something of relief for buyers, many of whom had clearly been resigned to LED (light-emitting diode) illumination continuing to dominate the industry's agenda for years to come.
Smartphone controlled lighting – which dims, changes colour or even synchs with music – attracted considerable attention at the event. Indeed, the winning entrants of the Hong Kong Lighting Design Competition proved the perfect showcase for such lighting, with the Mindful Minimalism category highlighting cutting edge creativity, while the Avenue of Chandeliers celebrated more traditional lighting styles.
Jostling for prominence with smart lighting was green lighting, illumination systems designed to reduce power consumption, thereby minimising any detrimental impact on the environment. Taking a notable lead here was Jiangmen-based Cathray Industrial Co.
According to the company, its futuristic-looking brushless DC fans have a number of distinct environmental plus points. Firstly, the use of a DC-powered motor instead of an AC driven one reduces wattage and operating temperatures, while also increasing safety by reducing the likelihood of overheating.
Secondly, when coupled with solar charging – the source of the DC supply – energy efficiency increases by up to 60%, largely on account of the savings in conversion between high-voltage AC and low-voltage DC. The DC motor and magnet design also suppress noise, ensuring reduced impact on the domestic living environment. Highlighting their appeal, a sales representative for the company said: "They're popular because they are new and, compared with traditional AC fans, they save money."
Similarly popular with attendees was a range of wake-up lights from E-Safe Technology, neatly combining the functions of an alarm clock with that of an adjustable table lamp. Although the lamp includes a radio function, perhaps the most gentle way to wake up comes courtesy of one of its seven natural sounds, as well as a gradual illumination setting that simulates the rising of the dawn.
Despite these individual success stories, the smart lighting sector is still beset by one particular problem – the lack of a single standard. At present, Google, Apple and Xiaomi, as well as a number of others, all have competing systems, all offering varying levels of integration and compatibility.
The focus on smart and green lighting, however, did not diminish the growing significance of the LED sector. With incandescent filament lighting now generally viewed as being on the way out – in fact, it is now banned in a number of countries, with several more set to follow suit – LED lighting has clearly come of age. Inevitably, this has meant that many lighting companies have had to overhaul their business models and development strategies.
In the past, LEDs were primarily used for backlighting, with cell phone illumination a key driver. Now, of course, the technology is far more ubiquitous. In fact, by 2020, a number of commentators expect it to have conquered the entire market. Recent figures bear this out, with LED lighting now the system of choice for buildings, vehicles and in outdoor environments.
According to Navigant Research, a US-based consultancy, some 864 million LED lamps and modules were shipped in 2015. By 2024, this figure is expected to reach some 4.1 billion units, with global revenue from LED lighting systems set to exceed US$216 billion at that point.
A problem that has long dogged the LED market has been the misleading claims made by manufacturers with regard to their products. This has understandably led to a certain degree of cynicism among professional buyers and consumers, with many concerned that claims related to power consumption, brightness and colour spectrum were seldom borne out in practice.
To a certain extent, the industry has been at pains to address these concerns over the last four years. At the same time, consumers have become increasingly knowledgeable, purchasing on quality, longevity and performance rather than just on the basis of price. This greater consumer knowledge, coupled with a higher level of transparency among the more reputable manufacturers, has led to a distinct thinning out of the industry, with the marginal and less reputable businesses effectively being squeezed out. For many, though, the industry still has a lot of challenges to overcome.
Henry Mianmi, for instance, a Buyer with Sao Paulo-based St LED, remains underwhelmed by the plethora of LED products and their many competing and conflicting claims. He said: "LEDs are still an emerging market. There is no big money there yet. While it will certainly change, it's still only a baby product in the United States, which is, by far, the largest potential market. Over there, it is solely used for commercial purposes. It is still quite unusual to see it in private residences."
Addressing the legislative changes that are forcing out incandescent light bulbs, Mianmi said that, although Europe led the way, China has now become the market leader, not just in terms of production but also in terms of implementation. Lagging somewhat behind, it was only last year that the US initiated a scheduled phase-out of incandescent light bulbs as part of the introduction of a new energy standard.
Commenting on the US move, Mianmi said: "I think legislators are becoming more aggressive about the issue and I think that's a good thing. We only have one Earth, so we better look after it.
"Mass adoption of LED technology is on the horizon and there's a lot of excitement and a lot of heat, but not a lot of substance yet. I think that LEDs will be big business in Brazil in about three years' time. So, now there's a lot of shopping around and a lot of getting ready for when we can really make money."
The HKTDC Hong Kong International Lighting Fair (Spring Edition), organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, was held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on 6-9 April 2016.
Jules Quartly, Special Correspondent, Hong Kong