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The ARC Show courts opinion

10 February 2009 10.00 BST

(UK) - The ARC Show’s first year at Earls Court 2 was, despite the economic climate (and quite literally, the climate), a huge success. Paul James reviews the show before looking closer at some of the products on display.

As past owners of The ARC Show, we were always aware that the Business Design Centre was too small a venue to grow the exhibition so that it could achieve its potential as a serious lighting show. When we made the decision to move to the larger premises of Earls Court 2, little did anyone know that the economy was going to take a nose dive a mere twelve months later. And certainly no one could predict the worst snow storm in London for eighteen years a couple of days before the show opened!

Given these two portents of doom it is all the more remarkable that UBM Live, the new owners of The ARC Show, managed to create a successful exhibition with a record number of exhibitors and visitor levels holding steady from last year.

UBM Live acquired The ARC Show from Mondo ARC Media last year having seen the year-on-year growth since its inception in 2005. Given this fact, it was always going to be a strange show for me to attend rather than organise. I must say, when the snow was coming down in droves I was glad I was an organiser no more! I needn’t have worried. The vast majority of exhibitors I spoke to had a good show. And most who found it a little slow at times were mindful of the atrocious weather conditions, instead choosing to concentrate on the quality of visitors.

Put it this way, you really had to have a reason to attend a trade show to make it into (or even across) London that particular week!

Mike Attard, MD of Ridi Lighting Ltd, was typical in his reaction: “Whilst the overall atmosphere was rather less upbeat than normal – and that can only be expected right now – a carefully targeted approach meant that the quality of visitors to the stand was still reasonable.” 
However, the two big boys of the show were indeed very upbeat about the show.

Philips announced a statement that: “ARC 09 was without doubt the best one yet for us - despite the exceptional weather conditions! The show had an excellent atmosphere and provided the ideal platform for us to showcase our ever growing range of LED lighting solutions to the design and architectural community.”

Jason Hicklin, OEM/Display Optic Channel Marketing Manager at OSRAM, commented: “This was OSRAM’s third appearance at the industry showcase and I was very pleased with the outcome. We had a lot of interest from people in our LED technology including our new LED luminaires as well as our energy saving products. Overall we felt the show went well for us and was a good exercise to get the message of sustainable lighting out there.

“In terms of the new location, we found Earls Court to be a very accommodating venue and the quality of visitors was very good. With the adverse weather conditions on the Monday prior to the start of the show, I was concerned at how this would affect visitor numbers, but in the end it did not seem to be affected too much.”
(See what David Morgan thought of one of OSRAM’s offerings on page 110.)

Positive reaction wasn’t just confined to the two exhibitors at the front of the hall. Nick Cooke, UK Project Manager, Schnick-Schnack-Systems GmbH, commented: “This was our first year at the ARC Show and I’m sure we’ll be back. Despite the appalling weather, the exhibition was at least as busy as any of the others we’ve attended, certainly in terms of the number of enquiries received. There was also a good proportion (about 30%) of enquiries relating to specific projects, rather than just price-gathering and a number of these have followed-up well.”

Certainly it would seem that the companies that showed products of genuine innovation experienced a successful exhibition. Those that expected business to come their way but extolled little inventiveness themselves, were disappointed.

The great white LED hope was well represented at The ARC Show with companies like Philips, OSRAM, Projection Lighting, Cooper Lighting, Lighting Science Group, AlcLED, KKDC and Photonstar LED all showing warm white LED downlighters for use in general lighting applications.

To take just one as an example, Projection Lighting reported a fabulous response to its launch of the Alpha LED. They introduced the next generation Alpha LED producing more light than a 50W low voltage dichroic lamp. The Alpha LED is a significant leap forward in solid state lighting technology. The Xicato spot module with excellent thermal management and unique cold phosphor technology combine to form LED downlights with exact colour consistency and long life.

The lighting designers I talked to at the show unanimously agreed that, although these LED downlighters still have some way to go in terms of price and performance, the technology has developed at an extraordinary rate and it won’t be too long before they start specifying these products.

Other manufacturers are developing luminaires for other company’s LEDs. These included Mike Stoane Lighting (surely the cleverest stand of the show!) and Ridi who was particularly pleased to show the ABDR surface/suspended downlighter, which features the very latest FORTIMO LED technology from Philips.

Another area of rapid LED development is the exterior projector / street lighting market. Outdoor lighting specialists Siteco, WE-EF, Meyer and Sill Lighting all showed LED versions of their products with Siteco and WE-EF going down the LED-only route at the show.

Elsewhere, media façade technology (the theme of this issue) is also beginning to make its presence felt in the industry. Griven, Traxon and G-LEC all had stands where this application was prevalent. With the media façade  at Pan Peninsula in Docklands (involving exhibitors Insta and Artistic Licence) recently going live to mark London’s first big media façade statement this medium is increasingly becoming a talking point. Is it a frivolity we could do with out? Or is it a legitimate design-led addition to the urban environment? Either way, it appears to trend is gathering pace and Wayne Howell of Artistic Licence was telling anyone who would listen about the virtues of his ‘Zero Carbon Project’ where the media façade would actually generate electricity for the grid. Now that’s the sort of innovation we like to hear!

Clever control was another theme of the show with Dynalite, Artistic Licence, e:cue, iLight, Helvar and Litestructures all coming up with ingenious ways to control lighting and more. This, despite the fact that Integrated Systems Europe, a show where control issues are very much the focal point, was taking place at the same time in Amsterdam.
Paul Wilmhurst, MD of Dynalite Europe, summed it up: “There is a real demand for integrated lighting control systems that can incorporate third-party control elements, such as audio-visual, curtains, blinds and temperature control systems.”

Event Director Cathy Oates was obviously very happy with this year’s show: “ARC 2009 proved to be the most successful event so far, growing both in size and numbers of visitors. Many exhibitors enjoyed their best show yet in terms of business secured and quality leads, as ARC yet again attracted the influential decision makers within the lighting design, architectural and commercial lighting sector. In 2010, we intend to build on this growth to present another fantastic event for the industry.”

The ARC Show continues to champion young design talent, not only was the winner of the SSL’s Young Lighter of the Year announced but a new initiative was introduced with the display of the final designs from a LED competition, which was ran in conjunction with one of the events exhibitors, Remote Control Lighting. The winning design was awarded to a student from Brunel University and their ‘Ocean View’ LED design.

This year, three educational forums were provided. Architects and Lighting Designers were treated to the IALD Enlighten Europe Conference, with subjects covering the lighting of historic buildings, lighting as an art and the lighting design at the new Heathrow Terminal 5 building. Speakers included Howard Brandston, Mark Major, Louis Clair and the new UK Lighting Designer of the Year Lee Prince. The ILE also produced a highly informative series of free technical seminars and a number of the show’s exhibitors were also selected to present their latest lighting innovations. Whilst not always well attended (and this is something that the organisers, along with other industry figures, are confronting) this three-pronged philosophy is to be applauded.

Far from being a death knoll for the industry, the recession is a fantastic opportunity for innovation to drive the industry forward. The ARC Show encapsulated this feeling. The fact that it was a success at all when the weather was so bad is a good indicator of the strength of the lighting industry. Projects are still going on, albeit on a smaller scale, and retrofits all over the country are looking at more energy efficient options. This means that companies at the forefront of this technology will prosper whilst those living on the gravy train of the past do so at their peril.

The ARC Show still has to improve and innovate and the fact that it still cannot tempt the ERCOs and iGuzzinis is a hindrance. But after five years of steady growth and the move to a bigger, more established exhibition venue, The ARC Show is, most definitely, here to stay. London is positioned at the centre of design in the world and lighting is an important facet of that. With this exciting period in the history of lighting, the UK needs a good lighting exhibition and conference to showcase ideas and technologies - whether it be LED downlights, sustainable lighting, micro power generating media façades or fully integrated control solutions. It deserves the industry’s support.


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