Getting Smart With Lighting

Jim Crowcroft, VP market development, TCP Inc., Aurora, Ohio, jcrowcroft@tcpi.com.

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With 'intelligent design' emerging as yet another buzz phrase in an industry full of them, Chain Store Age talked with Jim Crowcroft about how TCP incorporates smart design into its lighting products and projects, as well as what hot lighting trends he is seeing for 2013.

What do you see as the main elements of intelligent lighting design?

I would say intelligent design involves a thorough application of useful, advanced technology to deliver real-world operational improvements, but within a value-based innovation model at its core. Our engineers and designers realize that to make a successful product, you must consider optimizing product design elements in order to improve aesthetics, economics, performance and value elements, plus deliver solid solutions that improve bottom-line performance, as well as excite and impress the end user.

What are some trends you're seeing in energy-efficient lighting for retail?

By far, the hottest trend right now is the rapid adoption of new solid-state lighting alternatives (LED lighting) across the wide spectrum of all retailing categories. In 2011, LED lighting really "came of age," as products began to meet and exceed the performance levels of incumbent technologies (incandescent, halogen and HID lighting), while at the same time we saw the prices of these new LED products tumble. Industry experts project a continued double-digit growth curve in LED lighting over the next 10 to 20 years, as it is expected this technology will rapidly overtake many traditional lighting applications. LED offers many inherent benefits: long service life, improved color rendition, excellent lumen (light) output, reduced heat load and, of course, significantly reduced overall energy consumption.

Today, LEDs already outperform most other lighting choices in key retailer-use categories, such as specialty and directional lamps, as well as in severe-duty and outdoor lighting applications. And LEDs offer an almost infinitely flexible variety of design possibilities and packaging alternatives, for uses in area lighting, task lighting, display lighting and facility and outdoor lot lighting.

What retail categories are ahead of the curve in lighting, in your opinion, and which are some of the laggards?

Although I have witnessed LED lighting adoption by retailers in most all categories, it seems the largest department stores and some major specialty products (high-end clothing) retailers are moving forward with large-scale facility conversion projects. Another segment that is embracing new lighting technology is the convenience store/fuel distribution segment. I believe this retailer group saw advantages of energy efficiency, durability and reduced maintenance as key reasons for adopting LEDs.

Also, luxury goods retailers are quickly installing LED lighting in their display cabinetry and other special applications, such as cove lighting and accent lighting applications. On the other end of the scale, I have seen slower adoption from specialty retailers (mall stores, general merchandise stores) that are clinging to traditional halogen/HID and fluorescent lighting technology. Many have expressed concerns over high initial costs (LEDs can cost three to 10 times more up front) and inferior lumen (light) output in some applications where LEDs have not yet been able to deliver comparable overall light output.

Specific to TCP, where are your areas of focus this year?

TCP will continue expanding our directional LED lighting product line, adding new applications and additional options across the broad spectrum of products. We will release new-and-improved specialty lamp varieties, such as omnidirectional (A-Lamp) types and decorative specialty lamps, with improved dimming and best-in-class lumen output. We are also adding new integrated fixture LED lighting products and components for this rapidly expanding category. Our new product releases will encompass new application categories, such as interior area lighting fixtures, exterior fixtures and lighting retrofit kits.

Another area of innovation is the emergence of remotely controlled lighting, which promises to integrate Internet accessibility to facility operations through smart technology. TCP is leading the development of new IP (Internet-Protocol) enabled lighting technology across all applications of lighting and lighting control devices.