LEDs take over Frankfurt

Last week I attended the Light + Building trade show in Frankfurt and found myself thinking that it should be renamed the LED + Building show.

LEDs were everywhere. It was actually a struggle to find a stand without LED products at the show, although in many cases they’d been simply shoehorned in to existing product lines. It’s clear that the larger, market setting OEMs are starting to innovate and the vast amount of their R&D activity is now geared towards LED products. I’ve picked out a few key themes and trends.

All street lighting manufacturers had an LED solution at the show. A number of optics providers have dedicated street lighting optics kits – in short it’s very easy to design and make an LED street lighting solution. I discussed the transition of HID to LED with a contact within Philips – they predict that the Cosmopolis HID lamp has a lead in the market for at most the next 5 years, so what they are saying is they expect the majority of new street lights to be based on LED within 5 years.

The massive Philips stand was dedicated to LED in every business unit from residential through to street lighting. Although many of the products were buried in the usual Philips marketing-speak, in the range you could see some good products maximising the value of LEDs. One that caught my eye was a light for petrol station canopies that includes occupancy detection and daylight harvesting features.

A number of the industrial lighting players had Hi-Bay lighting solutions, although all of them were for non- hazardous sectors, while none of the hazardous players at the show had any real product innovations in LED.

As predicted, many new entrants, particularly Far Eastern electronics based companies, are trying to enter the LED market. Toshiba is a big lighting brand in Japan and sees LED as a route to enter the European market (it had some very ‘me too’ street lighting concepts on show).

The market has definitely moved up a gear, with the large OEMs firmly on the LED hymn sheet. Now we’re also seeing Far East vendors winning business in China and other parts of the Far East, with more LED street lights in China than anywhere else. The only main challenge, from a product perspective, to the wider adoption of LED is price – efficiency and the technical barriers become less and less every day.

From a marketing perspective differentiation and getting the brand and message across in a noisy market is going to be an issue. In the past we have had to sell our LED technology and be evangelists. It looks like the message is finally getting through.

Thanks to the volcanic ash cloud I enjoyed a 1st Class champagne-fuelled journey home on Eurostar rather than toughing it out on Easyjet. I could get used to this …

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