Aug 20, 2020

The era of personal choice: how innovation in LEDs adds new ways to respond to user preferences

Category: Illumination
Innovation in the light source gives lighting designers – artists in light – a broader palette of colors with which to conjure a wider range of lighting effects.

Innovation in the light source gives lighting designers – artists in light – a broader palette of colors with which to conjure a wider range of lighting effects.

Henry Ford’s famous quip that customers could choose any color of car they liked ‘so long as it’s black’ was testament to industry’s focus in the first half of the 20th century on innovating for efficiency and cost reduction. In the early days of mass production in large factories, enterprises succeeded by maximizing production output at low cost by restricting choice.

A century on, consumer tastes have changed, and our choice of a product such as an automobile is more a matter of self-expression than it is about how to get from A to B conveniently at the lowest cost.

The same fundamental force applies in lighting as well: whether in a public or a private setting, the choice of lighting equipment is about more than simply casting a certain quantity of lumens over a given area. Successful lighting companies realize that different users make different demands of the lighting in their home or workplace. Some people are sensitive to the effect of light on their health, well-being, productivity, sleep or mood. Others care about fashion, and whether their lighting is up to date with the latest trend – or even setting a new one. Others still are motivated by aesthetics, and want the light they live under to be as beautiful as the styling of their rooms and the artworks which adorn their walls.

And of course lighting can also be fun or functional, eye-catching or unobtrusive, depending on the needs, personality and taste of the designer, specifier or user.

In other words, the market for lighting products and lighting schemes is all about choice, variety and personalization. And the foundation for choice is laid by the light source – the LED. If there were only ever one, standard, uniform light source, the scope for differentiating the luminaire with optics, electronic controls or reflectors would be extremely limited.

In fact, the primary focus of leading LED manufacturers’ investments today is on innovations which enable new lighting concepts and more choice to enable the industry to respond better to users’ different preferences.

This innovation for consumer choice can be seen for instance in the range of spectral properties of LEDs used in human-centric lighting equipment. The latest LED offerings, such as Lumileds’ LUXEON Fusion, provide unprecedented scope to specify the color temperature and hue of white light, and, in color-tunable versions, to enable the user to tune the spectral character of light.

The broadening of choice in light sources draws both on research in the basic science of semiconductor light emission as well as on innovations in other system elements such as phosphor coatings. This is evident, for instance, in the blossoming range of LED color options for designers of architectural lighting and other style-rich lighting applications. Where in 2010 the range of colors available from LED manufacturers was typically limited to just six or seven, today our LUXEON C Color Line features 13 colors, including the latest ‘Lime’ color, a shade sitting between Mint and Green on the color wheel. Innovation in the light source gives lighting designers – artists in light – a broader palette of colors with which to conjure a wider range of lighting effects.

And innovation in the light source is not restricted just to spectral properties: breakthroughs in color rendering, beam control, dimming control and much more give equipment manufacturers new scope to differentiate products in ways which bring value to today’s discerning user: quality of light, dimming control, luminaire size and shape, power consumption and many more factors can all be managed and improved better than ever before, thanks to improvements in the foundational element of the luminaire – the LED light source.

In 2020, the lighting industry’s rate of innovation has been slowed but far from halted because of the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In Lumileds’ view, this is a temporary blip, and certainly not a roadblock in the way of innovation. Change and choice in LED light sources are here to stay.