Blogging about ‘kit’ again…

May 26 2011 — by Iain Ruxton
Press | Publications
I'm ranting again on the Lighting Magazine blog. This time my occasional ramblings on the general subject of lighting equipment is about way the industry is trying to sell LED luminaires...

How many new LED luminaires have you seen in the last few months?

How many new luminaires have you seen that weren’t LED-based?

But how many of the LED luminaires genuinely impressed you?

Here in our office, at least, the answers are, “Lots”, “Very few” and “Not many”.

Read it on the Lighting Magazine site or click through to read here...
Easily MisLED

Manufacturers look away now. Speirs and Major’s Iain Ruxton is angry. Here he bemoans the use of the word ‘unique’ in the standard LED luminaire sales pitch

How many new LED luminaires have you seen in the last few months?

How many new luminaires have you seen recently that weren’t LED-based?

But how many of the LED luminaires genuinely impressed you?

Here in our office, at least, the answers are, “Lots”, “Very few” and “Not many”. I am pretty confident that most experienced specifiers will agree.

We are, it seems to me, at an odd stage in the adoption of LED. We’ve been through the “age of bullshit”, where anyone and his dog put a bunch of diodes in a tin can with a resistor or two and went out hawking the 100,000 hour future. We’ve been through the stage where the pitfalls became clear and proper lighting manufacturers started doing it properly… resolving the thermal management issues, refining the binning, understanding appropriate drive circuitry and being honest about the lifetimes. As an industry, we’ve all matured rapidly as far as our knowledge of and attitudes toward LED are concerned.

Now we are in a peculiar stage where pretty much every serious lighting manufacturer is producing LED product. Most of it is OK… the days of the naively produced tin can full of diodes are pretty much gone, with the exception of some of the appalling product being pushed into the conveniently unknowledgeable consumer market. But most of it is only OK.

Everyone who brings us LED luminaires has (steady yourself now) much the same products. And there’s nothing wrong with that… we spent a decade and a bit looking at not dissimilar low-voltage, metal halide and fluorescent product. The difference is that during that time, manufacturers seemed to understand that they were all working with the same basic elements, and that what differentiated luminaires was optical design, along with ingenious mechanical design, physical styling, clever installation or maintenance methods, great accessories…

But now, in the LED world, everyone is claiming to be unique. Our first question now is “so what makes your LED products different?” The answer is almost invariably: “oh, it’s the quality.” Everyone claims to be better than everyone else – to be “the only people doing this properly”, “the first people to achieve this” (where “this” can be any number of rather prosaic and widely achieved things). Some manufacturers, rather extraordinarily, are so keen to be the “best”, that they claim longer lifetimes than the diode manufacturers themselves are prepared to countenance. Is the intense competition in the marketplace bringing in a second age of bullshit?

And you know what? Hardly any manufacturers have anything genuinely unique. The innovation lies with the diode manufacturers and the OEM module manufacturer. Okay, so most aren’t making rubbish… but they are either peddling sub-standard imitations of older equipment, or utterly identikit versions of product that everyone else makes anyway… but without any real thinking about what could make it better… unique… desirable… sellable.

I think it’s time for the industry to go back to creating and selling really good products, rather than claiming to sell “the future” and for companies to stop trying to pretend they’re the only company with the ability to successfully deploy this mysterious technology. As informed specifiers, lighting designers all know that LEDs are a big part of the next phase of lighting. We also know what the general issues are, and whether a solution looks credible or not. We’re not claiming to be expert thermal engineers, but we’re not daft… we see enough product to know what is credible. We’re not expert optical engineers, but we can understand the quality of beam we see… and we see enough product to be able to compare.

And there’s the crux… “we see enough product”. A number of the sales staff we meet don’t appear to have ever looked at anyone else’s product… let alone tried to understand what might be good or bad about it. In some cases, it’s hard to believe that the design and engineering staff have had a look around the market either. Some people don’t even seem to have looked at their own back-catalogue of successful pre-LED product! We specifiers just get the same old story trotted out… “we’re the only people doing this properly”, “we’re the first people to achieve this”, “we’re way ahead”.

No you’re not. Honestly. You’re not. In the majority of cases, you’re making some good kit… but stop making claims that make you look deluded.

The hundred-thousand-hour-tin-can-and-resistor boys have either grown up or fallen by the wayside. But perhaps there’s a second wave of LED failures in the pipeline.

Don’t be one of them.