LEDs have jumped many hurdles over the past decade. Output, quality and price have all hit the marks needed for widespread adoption. Socket and module standards are quickly evolving. So what’s next?
The next great revolution in the LED business will be miniaturizing the driver components and lowering the cost of advanced control and communications features. As the industry adds a glut of LED capacity, the price of the actual LED chips continues to plummet. This is increasing the percentage of total fixture cost that is related to the driver and power conversion components and, as they say, “the sharks are circling”.
Additionally, another potentially disruptive innovation, known as “coded light” or “visible light communications” is a complementary technology that can potentially revolutionize lighting control systems. For a better understanding of this principal, check out the TED Talk by Harald Hass of the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Digital Communications. Hass apparently coined the term “Li-Fi” to describe these lighting-based data streams. There is even a consortium started to explore this field: the LiFi Consortium.
Several startups are experimenting around these various areas, including Edinburgh-based PureVLC, Austin-based Ketra, Fremont-based Luxera, and Cambridge-based Bytelight:
PureVLC is the spinoff of the research by the University of Edinburgh:
“The technology was originally developed by the D-Light project at the University of Edinburgh and has been exclusively licensed to PureVLC. This technology allows standard LED light bulbs to be turned into high speed wireless communications devices, a bit like a Wi-Fi, hence the name Li-Fi which is often used.”
Ketra is looking at both integral color/lumen maintenance management and the use of “coded light”:
“Ketra is focused on developing intelligent semiconductor driver integrated circuits that combine efficient power management, lighting control functions and networking into a single system-on-chip solution. Ketra’s unique approach is built upon two core patent-pending technologies: ColorTune and Visible Light Communication (VLC). ColorTune maintains balance among LEDs, compensates for unpredictable aging effects and enables dynamic control of hue and intensity. VLC enables a fully networked, redundant and scalable lighting control system for Ketra enabled lighting products in a low-cost yet high performance network infrastructure.”
Luxera is looking at pushing all components of a power supply, including the bulky capacitors and transformers, down to chip level. Ultimately, a full functioning power supply could a postage stamp-sized chip sitting next to the LED array:
“Luxera brings to the LED retrofit market a completely new approach to solve AC-DC electronics design challenges. Highly reliable cost effective scalable LED Driver is based on proprietary, patent pending integrating technology including Integrated Active and Integrated Passive Devices. Luxera bridges the gap between Lighting, LED and IC controller manufactures to allow a seamless control directly from the line voltage to LED emitter board.”
Bytelight appears to be another company looking at the power of “coded light” for new applications, specifically coded-light interior architectural “GPS” systems. Not much on their official website, but on AngelList they state:
“Use the existing overhead LED lights to pinpoint the location of your mobile device indoors. ByteLight empowers developers with the ability to build better location awareness into their apps.
Find out where your friends are at a conference. Enter your shopping list and use an app to navigate to each product. Go to an art gallery and learn more about the piece you’re standing in front of. Never get lost inside a building again.”
Perhaps outside of the driver + control area, but I will include it here anyway: A former CK colleague mentioned that I should keep an eye on CoolEdge Lighting: Again, not much specific information yet, other then the description I found from the presentation at SIL:
“Cooledge Lighting is developing SSL solutions that will be integrated into long life luminaires for the $110B general lighting industry. The Cooledge solution eliminates the costs of thermal management at both the package and fixture level of integration; reducing costs and simultaneously extending reliable lifetimes. At the same time, Cooledge’s unique design frees the lighting fixture designer to develop unique forms for a high degree of light quality and pleasing aesthetics. Using technology originating from the University of Illinois, and supported with an experienced SSL development team, Cooledge takes LED chips from producers and integrates them directly into white light producing light engines, integrating ballasts and controls into a system with easy to manage mechanical and electrical interfaces for the luminaire designer.”
Do you know of any other cool startups in the lighting technology field? I will open the comments section below for suggestions.