Often likened to the Super Bowl of lighting shows, this eagerly anticipated biennial fair features ground-breaking products from manufacturers in Europe, the Netherlands, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, and Asia.

More evidence that the world is getting “smaller” is the amount of common themes and trends on a global scale that I noticed when browsing the 10+ halls of Light+Building in Frankfurt this week.

When I first started reporting on lighting in the mid-1990s, it was widely thought that European trends were ahead of the U.S. by roughly five years, with Canada trailing America by two years. Back then, the Internet was more or less in its infancy when it came to the amount of users on a global scale, and there weren’t any social media networks.

That’s all changed — and with the greater accessibility to observe what people in other countries are wearing, eating, watching on TV, listening to in music, and how they are decorating their homes, comes a faster acceptance of it all everywhere. As I walked through the style genres categorized in each hall (i.e. Classic, Modern, Technical, Trend-Spotting), I noticed the emerging finishes at Light+Building are very similar to those distinguishing American lighting intros this year:  soft gold, brushed brass, polished chrome. The same is true of materials such as concrete and certain shapes being pervasive on both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific. There is no more “lag” in trends reaching, or being accepted by, potential customers from another part of the world.

The lighting industry has also gotten more complicated. Developments in LED technology and now the Internet of Things (IoT) as it relates to integrated whole-house controls has made exhibition shows like Light+Building even more important. Where else can one observe first-hand what companies from all over the globe are unveiling and the capabilities on the horizon that our customers will soon be aware of?

Need more proof that selling lighting has become a global business? Executives from mega e-tailers such as Wayfair and Amazon were present at the show, making appointments with various manufacturers and finalizing distribution agreements. And if you think the business only flows one way — such as Americans wanting to buy European goods – think again. I sat down with Jonathan Lucas, President of Elstead Lighting at Light+Building to discuss the idea of global tastes. In addition to its own brand of British lighting, Elstead distributes the American brands Feiss, Flambeau, Hinkley, Kichler, Quoizel, and Stiffel throughout Europe, the U.K., Russia, the Middle East, among other regions. He told me that interior designers especially love the look of these brands’ fixtures; Elstead also sells the lines to lighting showrooms overseas.

When it comes to demonstrating technology, Light+Building is unlike any other trade show in its scope. Consider that both Osram and Philips have grown to occupy the entire Festhalle building, filling a combined 60,000+ square feet of exhibit space. For example, taking a guided tour of the Philips booth (they had guides for nearly every language handling groups of 15 people at a time) took one hour, and that was an abbreviated tour! The Osram booth was filled with equally ground-breaking developments that will help consumers live more efficiently.  

Imagine a retail lighting system that can track which direction people are facing and which displays they look at the longest. For example, as a consumer stands in front of an end-cap of wine, they can receive info on that particular brand and vintage as well as suggested food pairings – bread, cheese, fish, meat – to add to their shopping “basket” in the store. Plus the retailer is notified which items the customer put in their basket, if any, and which were placed in the basket and then removed. Sounds a little too much Big Brother-like? Well, yes, but that’s the way technology is going these days. Retailers and manufacturers can gather more details about their customers than ever before, but for the consumer this data exchange can be construed as either super-helpful or super-creepy.

For all the advances in technology presented, there are still some drawbacks. For example, there is still a lack of standardization in IoT protocol. Not all of these devices can communicate with each other, a problem that is increasing as more elements (heating/cooling, window blinds) are being added to the wireless control mix.  It was encouraging to see companies such as Philips and Osram offering open systems so that there can be some “bridges” made across platforms for inter-connectivity.

Want to learn more about the trends spotted at the Light+Building fair? Be sure to check out my report in an upcoming issue of enLIGHTenmentmagazine. If you haven’t signed up for a free subscription, click the link to fill out the form so you don’t miss out: enlightenmentm.wpengine.com/subscribe