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Paul James - Editorial comment

Issue 48 Apr / May 2009

I am of the opinion that this year’s ARC Show will be seen as a milestone in the development of the UK lighting industry.

Here was a show in the middle of a recession and with snow blizzards all over the country, yet three and a half thousand people braved the elements to find out what was new in the brave new world of architectural lighting. That might not seem like a lot compared to overseas shows but the quality of the visitor was astounding. Not everyone was happy. Some exhibitors complained of slow traffic and a lack of interest in their products but to me it seemed that that was more indicative of what they had to offer, rather than a failure of the visitor to spot their potential.

Based on the research I made, the companies that enjoyed a good show (and that was around 9 in 10 by my calculations) were the ones who were offering genuinely innovative product solutions and services. Those that still persist in creating ‘me too’ products were disappointed. This is indicative of the lighting industry as a whole and, indeed, of any market. The age of the gravy train is over. During this recession it’s the daring, inventive companies that will prosper. The slow and the weak will fall by the wayside.

I identified a handful of technology trends at The ARC Show that will drive the industry forward. The first few relate, of course, to LEDs. The number of companies entering the race to create warm white LED downlights have increased dramatically over the past twelve months and this was reflected in the show. Cooper, Projection, Photonstar, Philips, OSRAM, ALC and KKDC (amongst others) all made credible attempts and, although most lighting designers say they’re not there yet, even the most cynical admit that they’re very close.

It was also noticeable that exterior lighting specialists like Siteco, WE-EF, Meyer and Sill went big on LED technology for their outdoor products. Again, some way to go but the amount of research, time and money that is being spent in this area is now beginning to pay dividends.

Media façade lighting was also noticeable at the show with companies like Traxon, Insta, Griven and G-LEC demonstrating the potential of this new trend. Indeed, Insta won the contract to provide the media façade for Pan Peninsula (see page 46) as a result of exhibiting at The ARC Show in 2006! Wayne Howell of Artistic Licence writes an interesting piece in this issue (see page 44) about his pursuit of the zero carbon media façade as a reminder of the what could be the future of this technology.

Integrated lighting control systems is another one. Companies like Dynalite, Artistic Licence, e:cue, iLight and Helvar all showed products capable of incorporating third-party control elements. As if to prove the potential of this market, it has emerged that Philips has acquired Dynalite. The global lighting controls industry has an estimated total market value of approximately EUR 2 billion. Philips are no mugs.
This is the stuff that will drive the industry forward during the recession and long after the recovery. Those that are in the driving seat are already enjoying the ride. Those that are just the passengers had better get off now before they fall off.


Paul James

The editor sat on the cold seat at The Ice Bar, London during Mizar’s product launch with UK distributors SKL

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