LIGHTFAIR International’s (LFI) annual show took place in Chicago last week, and true to form, was the showplace for new innovations and technologies transforming the lighting world. Evergreen had a team on the ground to make connections, attend workshops, talk with manufacturers and immerse themselves in the largest annual architectural and commercial lighting trade show in the world. We asked three of our technical experts— Tony Adams, LC, national lighting manager; Barb Hamilton, training and education manager; and Shayna Bramley, LC, director of EiQ— for their observations on technological trends and the impact on utility programs, trade allies and the market. Following are abbreviated comments.

Describe key technological trends showcased at LFI 2018?

Tony Adams: Controls were everywhere. Lighting controls are finding some equilibrium with consistency of offerings, and it’s clear that manufacturers are working to improve their control product’s ‘ease of use’ for the benefit of installers. Manufacturers are also starting to promote the impact of color tunable LEDs on mood, human health and productivity, although studies are still needed to back-up anecdotal product claims. There was less focus this year on supplemental LED lamp products; instead, luminaires and fixture kits are being recognized as offering the highest efficiency and better quality of light distribution, as they are designed as a complete system, especially when coupled with controls.

Barb Hamilton: LED advancements continue to impress, including the miniaturization of LEDs into smaller luminaires, following form and functions. Manufacturers are able to apply the unique quality of LED lighting, without minimizing output or quality control. These creative products may be costlier, but the innovation trend is exciting to see. Wireless controls that use a diversity of protocols are also on the rise. While both wired and wireless systems are being developed and sold, many industry experts believe there will be a shakeout in the coming years, which will determine whether wired systems remain viable.

As Tony noted, the non-energy benefits of lighting and accompanying impact on people was an interesting discussion. In one session I attended, facilities people reported being asked more and more how lighting can be used to make people feel good and happy. Research is being done to evaluate the non-energy benefits of lighting that includes everything from satisfaction with the workplace, mood, alertness, increased productivity, morale, absenteeism, and turnover.

Shayna Bramley: At this year’s show, stand-alone controls have officially been replaced with networked lighting control solutions. I had meetings with over a dozen manufacturers with products on the Designlights Consortium’s (DLC) Qualified Products List (QPL) for Networked Lighting Controls (NLCs) to learn about their latest and greatest system advancements.  Surprisingly, it was great to see a standardization of NLC capabilities with a clear division into two tiers. There were a handful of notable Tier 1 systems which included Luminaire Level Lighting Controls (LLLC) embedded into recessed fixtures, wall switches, and easy to use mobile configuration apps. These systems are perfect for the everyday project which requires energy code compliance and can be commissioned by an electrical contractor in the field with minimal training. Tier 2 systems (of which there were a dozen) provide enhanced features such as energy monitoring, plug load control, and BMS integration. Tier 2 systems still appear to require factory or third party commissioning agents to implement and manage them long term.  The hope is that the Tier 1 systems, which use standard configuration methods, will expedite the adoption of NLCs throughout the industry.

How might these trends affect the design of incentive programs?

TA: The widespread use of controls technology has been an ongoing struggle due to market perceptions of complexity and difficult installation. More effort is going into monetizing and quantifying both the energy efficiency and non-energy benefits to help increase adoption. Manufacturer improvements that make controls more affordable and easier to configure should make an impact.

Horticultural lighting is an emerging category that is addressing the needs of the growers in the form of increased crop yield and the needs of the utility in the form of efficiency. Indoor growers are equally if not more concerned about how lighting can maintain and improve the yield and health of plants. Programs need to adapt their baselines to reflect that horticultural lighting is drastically different than human centered lighting.

BH: In one seminar I attended, the speaker asked, “How can utility programs start incentivizing quality?” Efficiency has long been the key metric of programs, but it is interesting to think about adding quality measurements as well. Programs may find value in offering incentive calculations that take into account lifecycle cost and not just upfront product cost/cost effectiveness criteria.

Any other potential impacts on trade allies, the design community or lighting agencies?

TA: Overall, it is refreshing to see that manufacturers are working to simplify solutions for trade allies and designers, making it easier for them to do their job.

Lighting industry participants—including manufacturers, technical and professional organizations, testing & certification organizations, and Evergreen—are joining forces to clarify complex technology and foster market adoption of efficient lighting solutions. That’s a good thing for the industry to work towards: higher quality, more consistency, and common definitions and terminology.

BH: Learning about these new technologies is a real-world reminder that trade allies need to continue to be educated about new products, approaches and opportunities. Those who stay with a cookie cutter approach to products and projects will find themselves out of date quickly.

SB: I attended an information-packed session on how to sell energy-efficiency projects. The speaker reminded contractors to tailor proposals to meet the time management needs of their clients, and to keep them short, sweet and simple. Owners who may not read a lengthy proposal will pay attention to a one-page document. The easier it is for clients to evaluate proposals, the quicker it will be to make a decision, and deliver more projects for the contractor.

Any final observations?

TA: A great thing about LFI is that everyone is there talking with each other. Among manufacturers, I noticed a change in their approach. Rather than simply pushing product, they’re testing new waters, listening and paying attention to the market and changing direction as needed. This is encouraging as we approach a new era in lighting.

BH: At LFI’s Innovation Awards, the prize for Most Innovative Product of the Year went to the Vector Series adjustable downlight by Ledra Brands. What’s unique about this product is the dynamic beam shape feature that uses multiple lenses and liquid crystals to change the beam shape from 10 degrees to 55 degrees —all from a phone app or wall switch. Also available in their track lights with no hands-on manipulation required! This advancement symbolizes what’s possible and what’s being done to move lighting forward.