The Latest in Light Sources & Controls

Both the light source and controls categories are evolving quickly, and in some cases combining in a process called “convergence.” Here are some of the stand-outs I’ve seen at recent shows.

[dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#d33030″]U[/dropcap]nderstandably, there has been rapid growth in 90+ CRI fixtures and lamps designed to meet California Title 20 and 24’s most recent requirements. Some lamp types that have had trouble meeting CA JA8 requirements were very small halogen replacement lamps, such as LED G9s. Tom Garber, CEO at EmeryAllen, remarks, “JA8 was a tough requirement to meet, but at the end of the day, it taught us a lot and forced us to produce a better light source not only for California, but for the rest of the country as well.”  Today, EmeryAllen is one of the only makers of halogen replacements with JA8 listing.

In addition, DVI featured JA8-certified filament and G9 lamps for creating Title 24 fixtures, and Tivoli Lighting launched a very high Color Rendering Index LED tape – named ELITE TivoTape™ – with a reported CRI of up to 97 and an R9 value of 93, making colors vivid. The tape light is offered in multiple lumen outputs of 80+ and 90+ CRI, static or tunable colors, and an array of wattage options at 100 to 118 lumens per watt efficacy. According to the company, “the tight LED spacing of the 2,835 diodes produces zero scalloping within our narrowest depth profile and a binning tolerance of 1.5 MacAdam Ellipse keeps consistent color.”

Juno AI™ LED Speaker Light with Alexa Built-In

Another notable trend in light sources are highly decorative LED lamps, including an ever-expanding variety of LED filament lamps in many shapes and sizes. Curved and spiral “flexible filaments” are the seemingly the latest in decorative filament lamps. At Lightovation this year, Bulbrite debuted a new LED version of the Plumen designer lamp that was originally created with CFL technology.

Multiple manufacturers now use A/C Chip On Board (COB) LEDs for the benefits of ultra-low profile, no external driver, reduced component costs, and a point light source for better optical control. COB has become the dominant technology for spot and directional LED lighting due to its superior beam angle and quality. COBs tile many LED chips close together in a larger ceramic package and apply phosphor to the group to create a single high-output source.

There are more manufacturers now showing very high lumen flush-mounts, track, and linear fixtures up to 5,000 lumens.  In particular, DVI and Nora have featured high-lumen products at the Lightovation show in Dallas.

Another “convergence trend” is Driver on Board (DOB).  These LED engines are typically a few inches in diameter with the LED surface-mount diodes (SMDs) and all driver components integrated on a single small circuit board. This eliminates the need for a separate driver “brick” and is a tremendous space saver for luminaire makers. The integration of the driver with LEDs also simplifies luminaire development and, in some cases, reduces bill of material (BOM) costs.

LED LIghting INformation
Tivoli’s new ELITE TivoTape™ offers a very high CRI of up to 97 and an R9 value of 93.

Also noticeable has been the abundance of “warm-to-dim” light sources. These lamps and fixtures are designed to automatically become ultra-warm in color temperature when the source is dimmed, sometimes as low as 1800K CCT. Intended to mimic the amber shift of a dimmed incandescent, these warm-to-dim products are especially popular in hospitality and upscale dining environments.

There is also a lot of attention being paid to “color-tuning.” This is the technology behind circadian light+health and typically involves combining LED packages of two different CCT – such as 2700K and 6500K – and by varying the light outputs by CCT, allows a controllable CCT range between the warm and cool extremes.

Integrated Sources & Controls

Lexi is a remarkable smart lighting system with a surprising list of firsts:

First interoperable smart lamp system with Philips Hue, Sylvania, and LIFX

First smart, rechargeable LED tealights and pillar candles with color-changing ability

Lighting scene software that allows the sharing of composed light shows between app users for the lamps and candles

Interestingly, Lexi just recently acquired an artificial intelligence software company, named Dahlia Home. According to Lexi CEO Scott Cahill, “Lexi is the first (sm)ART Lighting company that builds both hardware and software that creates transformative, customized lighting experiences for the home & the hospitality industry.” Cahill likens Lexi’s Composition Software as “VR Photoshop for Lighting,” enabling both consumers and professionals to craft beautiful lighting designs that can then be easily downloaded and run on physical lights. “Using machine learning, Lexi converts photographs of rooms to 3D renderings which enable users to compose customized lighting designs, evaluate the addition of new and different lights, and overlay a wide variety of special effects,” Cahill adds.

The  Juno AI™ LED Speaker Light with Alexa Built-In not only illuminates a room, but allows consumers to control their entire smart home and play music wirelessly through a concealed speaker featuring JBL© sound. Users can lock their doors, schedule appointments, adjusts their thermostat, run the vacuum, tell family dinner is ready, dim the lights for movie night, and read a book aloud. In short, Juno AI™ controls any smart home device that works with Alexa right from the recessed lighting fixture that virtually disappears into the ceiling, reducing appliance clutter.

When it comes to ceiling fans, manufacturers are rapidly adding mobile device controls for fans and light kits, plus increasing the number of ceiling fan models equipped with DC motors as well as those rated for both indoor & outdoor use.

Every ceiling fan in Modern Forms’ large product release featured all of the above: mobile app control, a DC motor, a light kit option, and indoor/outdoor rating — without exception.   

At Fanimation, the goal is to standardize controls across its entire fan line, as well as achieving Title 24 certification for every light kit.

Lighting manufacturers who are partners in the “Friend of Hue” program (a roster that includes Craftmade and ET2) showed new fixtures at Lightovation that integrate Philips Hue light engines – rather than Hue lamps/bulbs – to provide wireless control of dimming, color-changing, and color-tuning.  Utilizing the Hue light engines enables much lower profile fixture designs than merely using the Hue lamps would allow.

News in Controls

Intermatic has introduced a new smart timer called the Ascend Smart. Jeanne Stark, VP/Marketing, explains, “An emphasis on simplicity has helped Ascend Smart stand apart from competing solutions. Too often, smart timers and home automation systems are complicated to install, expensive to maintain, and confusing for homeowners to operate. Ascend provides a unique, stand-alone alternative that’s easy to set up and offers lasting value. Homeowners get the benefit of tech-forward features – such as remote smartphone access and integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant – without the hassle of a complicated home automation system.”

Smart mobile app control (IoT lighting) has spread to more types of lighting, including LED tapes and downlight retrofit kits. American Lighting featured both of these smart lighting categories at both Lightovation and Lightfair.  Speeding adoption is the that that most smart lighting products are now compatible with one or more of Alexa, Google Home, or Apple HomeKit.  It seems fewer are Apple voice assistant-compatible because it is more difficult to get Apple certification.

Also making it easier for widespread adoption, Legrand has a best-selling product line of radiant® Smart Switches and adorne® Smart Outlets that don’t require a hub and work with a consumer’s existing WiFi router.

At Lightovation, Focus Industries featured dimmable landscape power supplies for the high-end residential market. This is an application that hasn’t traditionally offered dimmability.

To keep up with all of the latest developments in sources and controls, look for the monthly technology feature article in enLIGHTenment Magazine. 

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