View from the Top: Driving Innovation in an Accelerating Market

View from the Top: Driving Innovation in an Accelerating Market

By Amy Huntington, President, Market Group Americas for Philips Lighting.

LED bulb

The transformation towards the Internet of Things (IoT) and a connected future is happening at an accelerated rate. As we see an increase in the adaption of smart lighting systems, we are also seeing a dramatic change in products, business models, and the industry as a whole. This has had a direct impact on the innovation, standardization, and regulation cycle, creating new challenges in generating effective standards that are necessary to support design efficiency and cost effectiveness yet still give the industry freedom to innovate.

Traditionally, standards and regulations (S&R) activities have focused on established lighting technologies (e.g., incandescent/halogen, fluorescent, and high-intensity discharge lamps and ballasts), which have benefitted from strong standards that were developed over decades. These standards first addressed safety and later expanded to focus on energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction. With a solid framework of standards and norms in place, regulators have and continue to focus on performance metrics and levels without worrying about how parameters are measured and defined.

Through the years, NEMA has led successful cycles of revising performance standards for existing established technologies and continues to address rulemaking issues involving several mature products. These products still account for significant business and finance innovation even though the applicable product standards have been in place for many years.

However, the last 10 years have seen a significant intensification of S&R activity. With the fairly recent introduction of LED-based lighting technologies, which offer the promise of massive energy-saving benefits, newer and heavier regulations are being introduced much faster than before and almost immediately after new standards are put in place.

Within this new reality, standards still need to be thorough and comprehensive without hindering industry advancement and innovation. This is highlighted with the impending California Title 20 regulations for LED lamps and the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® V2.0 for both lamps and luminaires. For the new category of smart products, standby power requirements have already been regulated, which can ultimately stifle innovation in this area.

Now, with newer innovations in areas such as intelligent lighting systems and services focused on human-centric lighting, performance-based metrics, and overall system efficiency, we can expect even more regulations to be rolled out at an even quicker pace. Currently, the Design Lights Consortium is working diligently to create a networked lighting controls specification even as it recognizes that all required standards are not in place yet.

Never has there been a greater sense of urgency to develop effective standards. Yet given the rush to regulation, there are numerous risks that can impact future innovation, including unforeseen consequences and loopholes and unenforceable requirements.

Preparing for Future

To avoid these risks, it is critical that NEMA and the industry at large work together to better prepare for increased regulatory activity and protect the industry so that it can continue to grow and prosper. This work will require better understanding and further educating customers about proposed regulations, including potential benefits and unintended consequences; actively engaging with policymakers by providing comments on proposed regulations and standards; and stimulating further industry participation by encouraging non-members to join NEMA and help shape the industry response.

With the rapid transformation taking place in our industry, the role played by the inter-company S&R teams coordinated and led by NEMA is crucial to the success and wellbeing of the electrical industry.

The next 10 years hold huge potential for the lighting industry but will require extensive industry participation and collaboration to adjust to the dynamic industry.

This piece was originally published in the February 2016 issue of ei, the magazine of the electroindustry.

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