Smart lighting is easily one of the fastest growing sectors in the field of Internet of Things. According to analysts, this sector is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 22% over the next 7-8 years, making the value of the smart light market zoom up to $48 billion by 2020, and a whopping $65 billion by 2025. The commercial smart lights sub-domain alone will touch $8.2 billion by the end of this decade (residential smart lights will be growing at an even faster rate). In what follows, we will highlight some fascinating trends in smart lighting to keep an eye out for:
Surge in the popularity of LED lights
A key driver behind the rapid growth in smart lighting has been the increase in people switching over to LED lights globally. On average, at least 7 out of every 10 customers have bought at least one LED light, with nearly 50% people reporting that they have purchased LED lights in the last year (2015-16). In 2016, the total number of LED customers was a healthy 27% more than the figure in 2015, underlining the fact that LEDs are the preferred light replacement options in homes/offices. Interestingly, around 62% first-time users of smart lighting are already LED-users. Experts have found that the LED technology can save up to 60% more energy (compared to traditional lighting). The switch to LED, hence, hardly comes as a surprise.
Awareness on an upswing
For all its rapid growth and huge buzz among mobile developers and other tech enthusiasts, Internet of things (IoT) is still a niche field. A study in 2014 found that nearly 87% of people worldwide had not heard about the technology ever. While that figure is gradually coming down, IoT is still far from being a ‘massy’ thing. However, smart lighting (along with home automation, and to a lesser extent, smart car technologies) are bolstering the IoT sector. At present, 66% of all people know about smart lighting solutions, and close to 80% among them opine that smart lights would indeed replace traditional lighting in the foreseeable future.
Different elements of smart lighting
With this being a relatively ‘new’ sector, companies are focusing on the separate categories under which smart light elements can be classified under. Broadly speaking, more innovations are expected in 2017 – in smart light bulbs, fixtures and controls. Apart from LED bulbs, fluorescent lights and high-intensity discharge (HID) lights are also steadily making their way in the smart lighting domain. It’s a much-varied field, and OEMs are doing their best to stay ahead of competitors by giving their products an edge.
The many advantages of smart lights
Over the last couple of years or so, the benefits of adopting smart lighting solutions have become increasingly clear to both general customers as well as authorities/industry experts. Apart from their energy-efficiency, smart lights can bring down average crime rates (in areas that previously had insufficient light) by more than 20%. What’s more – thanks to the real-time data sharing options that these lights have, their maintenance costs are a lot lower too (around 30%). Customized brightness options and adjustable voltage add to the plus points of smart lights further.
DOB technology to become more mainstream
A separate driver is required to transform AC current (alternating) to DC current (direct) – before the latter can be used in smart bulbs and tubes. However, mobile app developers in charge of designing smart lighting solutions have often reported that creating this driver and the LED board separately makes the final product a lot more complicated and buggy than what’s desirable. The Driver on Board (DOB) technology comes across as a viable solution to this problem. With DOB, the LED chipsets and the driver(s) can be placed on the same board (functioning as a single component). The number of IoT developers working with DOB technology is fairly low at present, but the number would surely go up in 2017 and beyond.
Note: There is one downside of the otherwise effective driver-on-board technology, however. It can result in LED lights underperforming – as a result of which more LED bulbs become necessary to build the unit.
In the top three smart products in the US
Between 2017 and 2020, smart lighting would consolidate its position as one of the top three ‘connected’ technologies adopted by people in the United States (the other two being home security and smart thermostats). Over the last 6-8 quarters, the volume of adopters of smart light technologies has grown by more than 40%. The popularity of smart lighting in US extends to both the residential and the commercial sectors. Close to 57% of buyers in the country have stated that the new lights they buy would be LED bulbs, while 80% of home-owners feel that smart lighting can enhance the productivity of their houses, in some way or the other. All things considered, there are ample opportunities for smart lighting solutions to grow over here.
Smart light installations
Hybrid and proprietary technologies were the two most important methods for installing smart light systems, at the start of 2016 (apart from the wireless solutions provided by DALI Wireless). Other, more advanced installation techniques are expected to gain momentum this year. Developers will start to work with Bluetooth-powered smart lights, Power over Ethernet (PoE), and Power Line methods – gradually making the installation procedures faster, efficient and more customizable than ever before. Solutions by ZigBee and EnOcean are also likely to gain more acceptance.
All segments of the smart lighting market to grow together
We had earlier made a broad classification of smart lights under two heads – residential and commercial. Let us now look into the other sectors of the market where smart lighting solutions are finding increasing acceptance. Office and industrial lighting, malls and plexes, public lighting (street lighting) are all sectors in which the presence of smart lights will grow stronger in the next few years. There is already high levels of demand for smart lights from the hospitality sector as well. The challenge now lies with the manufacturers and app developers to match the smart light supply levels to their burgeoning demand volume.
Europe leads the way as the biggest consumer of smart lighting solutions in the world. The Asia Pacific and Latin America take up the second and third spots respectively. However, when it comes to the fastest growing geographical sectors in this domain, Asia Pacific (with a CAGR of 21%+) is right at the top. North America is also witnessing accelerated growth in the adoption rates of smart lighting solutions. As more advancements happen related to smart homes and smart cities, the usage of ‘connected lights’ will soar even higher.
Backend and frontend elements
Smart lighting solutions are not exactly cheap to design, and developers would (understandably) be pulling out all the stops to ensure the success of their products. In 2017 and later, cloud-based development platforms (like Kii) will be used more and more, to ease out the overall integration process. End-users will have completely personalized control and visibility on the front-end. Real-time data from the smart lights can be tracked, monitored and analysed from the back-end support (with the help of custom APIs). The smart light fixtures will have advanced sensors built-in, for data tracking and syncing.
Controls growing at a higher rate than Fixtures
This is far from being surprising. According to experts from the field of software and mobile app development, customers like to get a proper, in-depth idea about how one particular gadget/device/solution works – before deciding to try out another one. Till 2020, smart light controls will grow at a CAGR of 18%, with fixtures following at a significantly lower rate. People are still getting acquainted with the technology – and it can be reasonably expected that controls with outpace fixtures in the next decade as well.
From halogen to LED
As already pointed out earlier, the so-called ‘LED surge’ has been an important catalyst for the recent accelerated growth of smart lighting. Halogens, however, remain the most popular lighting technology, with incandescent bulbs and LED lights coming in after them. The point to be noted here is, these halogens are being gradually replaced by the light-emitting diodes. High-intensity discharge (HID) lights have a small market share, as do fluorescent (linear and compact) lights.
Phillips, with its diverse range of smart lighting products and platforms – from DALI and BACnet, to EnOcean and Zigbee – is easily the market leader in this sector. General Electronics and Acuity Lighting Systems (both from US) have also emerged as major players. The opportunities for innovation are immense in the field of smart lighting, and it remains to be seen what new solutions developers worldwide can come up with this year.
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