The Latest in Smart Lighting: Three Trends to Watch

May 15, 2018 | Comments
The fixture Lutron's Sam Woodward describes below.

An excellent bellwether for advances coming to residential lighting solutions is the biennial Light + Building Show in Frankfurt, Germany. The show — which boasts a staggering attendance of 220,000 global visitors — exhibits trends in lighting design, electrical systems, and building automation.

While the bulk of the exhibitors are pitching their wares to commercial designers, builders, and architects, the cutting-edge lighting technology on display is currently turning up in residential builds.

Some takeaways from the 2018 show:

LED is here to stay. LED lighting has become dominant, overtaking and surpassing fluorescent lighting solutions in adaptability and aesthetics. Sam Woodward, a “Customer Education Leader” with Lutron, says, “The world of lighting very much used to be lamps of known fixed sizes, and there are dozens of standards of shape of lamp. Now those lamps would be sitting in fixtures, rudely referred to as lamp holders, and the two were very closely married. But now, with LED, the world of the light source and the thing that it sat in, their relationship has changed.

While on the show floor, Woodward encountered “kinds of Möbius-strip-shaped LED fixtures — things that were very much using three dimensions.” As bulb and fixture become completely integrated and nearly indistinguishable, “there was incredible amounts of creativity unleashed by the change in light source,” according to Woodward.

Lighting is now a source of data. Bulbs are now capable of collecting information about the rooms they light, and using that information efficiently. “Light fixtures with sensors built in are not all that new, but now we have the idea that lighting and control systems can extract that data and do useful things with it,” explains Woodard. “Whether that's showing the occupancy of buildings over time, whether it's tracking assets or tracking movements of people, measuring CO2, or measuring temperature, it’s another data collector in a given space.” That data can be used to change lighting color or brightness, toggle off or dim lights automatically, or send information to other systems in the home.

Long live the light switch! Yes, lighting control is becoming more and more automated — but that doesn’t mean that the humble light switch will disappear tomorrow. Peter Aylett, an integrator with the firm Archimedia, notes that “We have some very, very expensive samples that, whenever we've got a meeting with an architect, we will take those samples. We don't sell it as a light switch, we sell it as just a beautiful thing that sits on the wall, and we can match, say, a stone finish with the light switch. This allows us to engage with designers, and talk their language.”

“On the residential side, when we're talking to folks about lighting control, by far the largest part of the conversation is about the look and feel,” says Woodward. “It's got to be a conversation that has a very comfortable outcome with the clients.”