Explosion of lighting tech ‘overwhelming the industry’

It's become very difficult for end users to keep with the avalanche of new lighting technology coming onto the market, says Sainsbury's former electrical engineering chief Simon Waldron

LED lighting has followed a bumpy path

The earliest LED luminaires were extremely limited in terms of their functional and aesthetic performance. The rush to adopt LEDs back then was all about energy reduction at the expense of visual effect – typically 600×600 flat panels with no form of control in order to comply with LG7 and BS EN 21464. For many manufacturers, performance didn’t matter – it was simply discarded and ‘shall not be named or brought into question’.  Never mind full compliance; as long as it looked bright, then brilliant. However, there’s been a paradigm shift in the way LED luminaires are being used and adopted by designers and end users. It’s no longer about saving energy and money at the expense of visual quality and the wellbeing of individuals. The question is now ‘how much energy and money can we save, while creating a pleasant and engaging environment for the individuals within the space?’ 


It’s all about control

The key issue in establishing LEDs as a viable technology is control. Manufacturers are gaining confidence in developing optical control of LED light sources, which will now create a chasm between good manufacturers, who have in-depth knowledge of luminaire design, and those who have simply jumped on the LED bandwagon. It’s safe to invest in LEDs – but be sure to source from a reputable manufacturer.


Changing the look of such a high-profile brand as Sainsbury’s was a ‘daunting task’, says Waldron. The £100 million programme included supermarkets, both new build and retrofit, convenience stores, distribution centres and store support centres. It had to take into account the reliability of the supply chain, aesthetics, visual and energy performance, and, of course, cost. Now the company has an LED solution it can apply in all circumstances.

Upgrading the whole of Sainsbury’s lighting was a challenge

As electrical engineering manager at Sainsbury’s I was tasked with converting the whole Sainsbury’s estate from standard light sources to LEDs. That included supermarkets, both new build and retrofit, convenience stores, distribution centres and store support centres. It took a lot of time and effort and had to be carefully planned from the outset, taking into account the reliability of the supply chain, aesthetics, visual and energy performance, and, of course, cost. Changing such a high-profile brand’s look and feel was a daunting task, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. We were done when all the tools had been collected neatly into the LED toolbox, leaving the client with a portfolio of solutions they could apply to any given situation.


Changing to LEDs is a steep learning curve 

I realised that the knowledge and experience I had gained at Sainsbury’s could be of use to other organisations that are struggling with the concept of LEDs and need help in making the switch. Having gone through the learning curve myself, I can save them a lot of time and effort by bringing my own experience to bear in helping them develop their own portfolio of LED tools. Leaving Sainsbury’s was a huge step, but I wanted the freedom to apply my knowledge of the pitfalls, the lessons learned and the winning formula to other organisations as I see fit. Urban Jungle Energy & Engineering also offers traditional mechanical and electrical design consultancy, which makes us well placed to deliver large-scale LED retrofits for manufacturers and end users as a turnkey solution.


IoT is a step change in the evolution of lighting 

New technology needs a testing and proving period, and I feel the explosion of new lighting technology is currently overwhelming the industry to a certain extent. Trying to keep up with new developments and innovation feels like a full-time job in itself. The move from standard controls to wireless and the opportunities that this brings is one thing; however, the concept and adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) is another. 


Investing in IoT technology is a gamble

I believe that the race to develop the enabling devices that will allow IoT to flourish will be a bit like the Betamax versus VHS debate from time gone by, or the more recent Blu-ray and HD Disk. Only one will win, and you have to make a choice. There needs to be much more standardisation across all platforms before this technology can really take off, and it won’t be led by manufacturers. Ultimately it will be end users who stipulate which technology becomes embedded within all the fixtures across their estates, irrespective of the original manufacturer.


  • Simon Waldron is speaking at the special Lux conference ‘Lighting for Facilities Managers’ which is taking place on Thursday 19 May 2016 at the Cavendish Conference Centre in London. Simon’s talk is titled: LEDs – Getting it right in a large roll-out. Entry is free to specifiers including facility managers, consulting engineers, estate managers, energy managers and others responsible for the management of lighting installations and their specification.  View the full programme and register for your free place by clicking on the logo