In my time as an Electrical Engineer at Design Collaborative, I’ve attended three lighting conferences. Last week, our team attended LightFair International in Chicago, hailed as the largest conference in the country, and easily the largest conference I’ve attended. Immediately, our team of electrical engineers identified that it was a great place to learn what manufacturers are doing with current trends. We were positively overwhelmed with the number of booths and manufacturers for us to visit.
There’s always a topic of interest at these conferences. A few years ago when LED technology was becoming more and more common in light fixture design, every manufacturer was showing off their LED capabilities. Last year, there was some specific focus on new wired lighting controls and a lot of linear lighting. At LightFair, the main topic seemed to be wireless control capabilities.
We identified that the IoT (Internet of Things) section was one that would benefit us a lot, so we took the time to walk through those booths as a team. There was a lot about how to use different wireless protocols – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc. – to design a fully internet integrated system for any space. A full system includes the integration of lighting, HVAC, audio/video controls, and more. Our team discussed what wireless protocol each of us thinks will be the one to take over IoT technology in this field of work. As wireless controls become more widely used in the construction field, our team believes that multiple manufacturers will eventually have to agree to use the same protocol so that customers are able to use fixtures from different manufacturers using a single controls system that is operated wirelessly. I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket, but Bluetooth technology seems to be taking over the specific lighting market.
It seemed like there were thousands of booths to visit – an endless display of lighting ideas for electrical engineers! We saw some incredibly well designed light fixtures, only possible thanks to the advancement and flexibility of LEDs. It was particularly interesting and shocking to see the scale of some of the larger fixtures. We typically look at these on computer screens, and while the measurements are available, it can be hard to visualize how truly large they are. Seeing these in person was beneficial as we go further into lighting design and tackle different size projects. In many cases during project design, we have spaces with tall volumes where we really want to make an impact or statement with our lighting. Because these statement fixtures are often very large in size, or a specialized fixture, representatives are not able to bring them to our office. Seeing some of these large fixtures in person was helpful!
We also noticed a lot of improvements to the “uglier” side of lighting, specifically emergency lighting. Many companies have come up with unique designs using LED lighting that allows emergency lighting to be more integral to the space. It seems like very soon we will be able to drop the typical wall mounted double-head “bugeyes” that we see too often in projects, and we will be able to integrate incredible designs from our architects with some recessed emergency lighting or even integrate the emergency lighting to the ceiling grid.
The innovation in fixture design is only possible because of the advancements in LED technology. LEDs are getting smaller, but putting out more and more light than ever before. This allows manufacturers to create lighting that is more attractive than the conventional emergency lighting fixtures.
Personally, I feel that these kind of trips are not only valuable to our engineers to stay aware of industry trends, but they allow our electrical engineers to bond and continue to build ourselves as a team. The best part about traveling to and from conferences is the many discussions we’re able to have. On the way home, we’re able to compare what we saw and learned, and share with each other how we plan to use this information to enhance our team. These conferences are very valuable to our team as we continue to expand our capabilities and improve the worlds of our clients.
Associate, Electrical Engineer