Lighting Fixture Design Conference: What was learned?

Is progress dead or are we still moving forward?

The lighting industry is in a strange state of flux. Some say that we have seen it all and that we have finally reached the end of a long tract of fast moving progress. While others claim that they are still struggling to keep up with the pace of change within the industry. The truth, as ever, can be found somewhere in between.

The disruptive way that the global electronics industry has shaken the lighting business to its very core has been disturbing to witness and endure. There are signs, though, that the long-standing core principles of lighting design and manufacture are starting to shine through.

Lux hosted a two-day conference on 21-22 February 2017 at the Cavendish Conference Centre in London that explored new directions in lighting application. The programme for the event can be found here. Highlights included:

Lighting in agriculture

Maybe it’s because I live in the deep rural South West, where the gorgeously fresh air tends to carry the subtle nuance of the farmyard, but I’m intrigued by the work that’s being done in lighting for horticulture and lifestock husbandry.

The development of LED technology has led to a new understanding of the way plants and beasts function. Specialised light spectra brings with it improved production techniques, saving money and reducing waste for producers. That leads to higher profitability which, in turn, means that more food is likely to be produced using these methods. All this at a time when we’re reading more and more about food shortages and the stresses on traditional farming methods.

Technology in fixture design

I’m a sucker for taking lighting fixtures apart to see how they work, so anything that comes along to improve performance gets the thumbs-up from me. Optics, for one, is a natural playground for the LED source and it is good to hear that the architectural sector is starting to catch up with our street lighting brothers and sisters.

The more we explore the ways that the LED is different from everything that came before it, the more exciting the future of lighting fixture design becomes. We’re re-visiting things like colour quality, through the additional rigour of the TM-30 metric and visual comfort is back again at the forefront of what makes a good fixture.

The Internet of Things

I’m starting to think that no conference is complete without a session on IoT. It’s like the old end-of-the-pier variety performances that always had a juggler or an acrobat – or performing animals. Anything to show that the circus is alive and kicking.

The Internet of Things continues to entertain but, things are changing. The comic capers of the IoT kettle or the Cloud-connected bookmark continue, and I, for one, hope we never lose the essential madness that IoT brings to the table, however it is time to get serious about the connected environment.

We can’t hide from the reality that the lighting fixture offers the best way to ensure IoT coverage throughout the built environment, fixtures are, when all’s said and done, everywhere. So how are we going to engage with this? You just want to make light fixtures – it’s what you were born to do, so what’s this malarkey about? The second day of the event will feature a whole host of presentations which will consider how manufacturers can gain benefit from a sensible engagement with the IoT world. A full list of the talks on offer can be found here.

Facing up to the disruption

Believe it or not, we have been here before. The lighting world has always had to face up to challenges from new technology. Some of the struggles may sound quaint to us today, but I guess that the candlemaker and the gas mantle factory needed to face up to massive reductions in demand when new technology appeared. The appearance of the kerosene and paraffin effectively destroyed the American whaling industry in the first part of the nineteenth century. Piped gas and electricity then hit the kerosene and paraffin market hard fifty years later. Change has always gone on, though possibly not at the rate that we’re experiencing today.

But change always brings a level of lawlessness with it. New technology that can’t be fitted into codes and standards leaves the door open to the cowboy and the charlatan. We’ve all seen, over the past few years, some very dodgy LED equipment coming to market. It is vital that we talk about how the good guys can protect themselves in this new ‘post-truth’ world of unsubstantiated claims.

The keynote speaker at the event will be renowned architectural lighting designer Dean Skira will offer the keynote address at the event. Skira is the designer of a number of ground-breaking luminaires including the iGuzzini Trick and will discuss the best ways to create luminaires with unbreakable specifications.

Mark Sutton Vane of Sutton Vane Associates will discuss what can be learnt from other industries that have undergone technological revolutions, while ethical hacker, Ken Munro, will lay bare just how easy it is to conduct a cyber attack on IP-based lighting equipment and how best to protect against it.

Hear Dean Skira speak about the challenge facing lighting manufacturers: