The lighting industry is undergoing a transformation, and the root of this change is the light source itself. The filament sources that have been the mainstay of the industry for more than 100 years are giving way to an electronically driven form of light—light emitting diodes (LEDs).
And as this transformation occurs, the entire lighting community—designers, manufacturers, and everyone in between—is trying to figure out how to navigate the uncertain lighting landscape. At moments, the path seems clear, at other times, not so much.
Clearly, the rise of solid-state lighting is challenging designers and manufacturers to think about how the LED and its specific characteristics in delivering light can be the starting point to create new form factors for luminaire design. But the changes that LED lighting technology is bringing to the industry should be viewed as a greater opportunity than just reimagining the design of new fixtures. It should be seen as an opportunity to reenvision the industry as a whole and all its components, including but not limited to the R&D process, the supply chain, and the communication process between designers and manufacturers.
The analog-to-digital transformation under way in lighting presents an opportunity to fix processes and procedures that no longer serve the industry well. The potential that LEDs (or any other new lighting technology for that matter) provide should allow the lighting industry to become more flexible and open to adaptation and change. It shouldn't force designers to retreat and not specify LED luminaires until all the intricacies of the technology are solved, or force lighting companies to choose between maintaining or abandoning their still-in-use and in-demand legacy product lines, and their investigation of new LED-based product options.
New technology can and should provide direction for the industry to move forward, while still being responsive to external pressures such as the economy, new investment opportunities and partners, and inquiries from other non-lighting industries. The potential to be gleaned from solid-state lighting should cause a level of excitement throughout the lighting community and create an environment where designers and manufacturers are open to new types of collaborations in the creation and delivery of lighting goods.
Yes, there is always a degree of uncertainty with any new development, but if the past six years and the steady increase of LED product introductions and application studies have proven anything, the lighting industry has bet on LEDs and it will have to see this industry and market transformation through.
Here is the chance to lead and determine the industry's destiny, and to show others outside of lighting, such as electronic manufacturers and venture-capital investors, how fantastic an industry this is and what types of opportunities exist. Light isn't just about the light source or the light fixture; it encompasses optics, human factors, aesthetics, emotions, materials, security, energy savings, and so much more.
The evolution to solid-state lighting requires building on existing skill sets and creating new ones, ones that respond to the technical requirements for producing a new generation of lighting products and information sharing.
The transformation to LED lighting is providing the industry with an exciting opportunity to reimagine and reinvent itself. It doesn't mean throwing the baby out with the bath water, specifically the scientific research, ingenuity and entrepreneurship that have been a huge part of the industry's development and success, but it should be seen as way for the industry to invest in its future and carve out a path for the next 100 years.