At the LRC Summit, 15-17 OCT in Troy, NY, Dr. Mark Rea will offer a keynote session, ” Lighting: What’s Next?” Lighting’s value must be sought not just through traditional business models, but through creating greater value for society and developing nontraditional partnerships.
LEDs have radically changed the century-old, lighting business models. The old business models were very much like annuities. As light bulbs burned out and fixtures became inefficient, manufacturers were guaranteed a regular stream of income because they maintained distribution and simply had to “innovate” new products that filled existing sockets, apertures in the ceiling and connections on top of poles. Because of the large capital investments required for manufacturing and the expense of challenging existing standards, it was nearly impossible for new players to enter the lighting industry with truly innovative products. Slow, incremental progress in lighting technologies while meeting well-established standards, became the very purpose of lighting. In other words, demonstrating and delivering value to customers and society was not required in the traditional lighting ecosystem.
With inexpensive LEDs, anyone today can be a lighting manufacturer. This lowering of entry barriers to manufacturing has led to many diverse and highly competitive small companies. And with the widespread advent of digital connectivity and artificial intelligence the value propositions for lighting have changed, bypassing the well-established lighting standards. This technology-push strategy may work in the long run, but it will do so more or less independent of the benefits that light can provide to people, animals and plants. What is more, these solid-state technologies have disrupted the staid government agencies and NGOs focused on energy efficiency. Many now feel that there is no need to promote lighting energy efficiency due to the rapid market adoption of highly efficient LEDs.
Today, there are two basic business models for lighting, one trying to serve the existing, well-established lighting standards at the lowest price, and the other trying to leverage existing lighting infrastructure to insert digital communications and artificial intelligence into the built environment, both indoors and out. I believe it is worth considering a third model, one that is less about technology push or cheaply serving existing standards and infrastructure and is more about delivering benefits to society. Those benefits include, but are not limited to, using lighting to improve human health, enhance food production, and manage renewable energy supplies in the new electric grid. Value creation for this third business model is still unclear, but one thing does seem clear, if this third business model is to create greater value for society, it cannot do so alone. We must reframe this business model by forming nontraditional partnerships with government agencies, NGOs and academia to collectively “advance the effective use of lighting for society and the environment.” This conference aims to ignite discussion and shape the future of lighting, indeed a future where the lighting industry plays an important, recognized role in benefiting society and the environment. Register here: https://www.lrc.rpi.edu/summit/