Attendees witnessed a dramatic shift at this week’s Lightfair 2010, the lighting industry’s most visible, 20th annual conference and tradeshow – LED’s have become the dominant lighting technology in virtually every session, presentation and vendor booth.  Goodbye fluorescent, halogen, high intensity discharge, induction, you’re all passe’, OLEDs your time will come….

While Lightfair 2009 was a coming out party for LED’s, this year EVERY possible lighting application, from 2 watt dimmable candelabras to 200 watt street lighting, was on display.  LED chip performance has increased another 30% since last year and manufacturers have seen the proverbial light. UL’s engineering teams are now overwhelmed with the volume of pending new applications they need to review.

Even the big lighting guys are now embracing LEDs. Where only Philips was showing a wide variety of LED products a few years ago, now Acuity, Cooper and GE are all LED centric in their marketing.  Other large consumer electronics companies, with no history in the US lighting market, are in the game too.  Toshiba is going after the whole sector with chips and fixtures, while Sanyo is offerings LED components.  Micron and other similar players will shortly be entering the market as well.  And don’t forget the 150 start ups going after each LED fixture sub-category.

That’s not to say everyone is happy. The DOE Solid State Lab (DOESSL) is pretty exasperated.  They’re doing their best to get ahead of the craze by establishing referenceable standards for LED fixture design and performance, but the market is moving too fast.  The DOESSL wants to avoid problems like in the early 1990’s, when the first and the worst CFL’s came with flickering, wierd color quality and slow starts.  And with no technical review for lighting products, the EPA’s Energy Star program (which they took over from the DOE six months ago) will not solve this problem.

DOESSL’s standards, such as LM79 for fixture photometrics, LM80 for the LED chip performance and L70 for in situation lifetime testing have all been introduced. But these won’t inhibit manufacturers’ temptation from massaging their DOESSL performance reporting while pursuing their first mover market advantage.  Unlike simply inserting a lamp and a ballast into fixture, an LED fixture requires a system design.  Bad system design will take some time to play out.  But for now the DOE is losing the war, as designers and customers are making their own decisions in the rush to adopt LEDs.

Which is why it’s no surprise that this year’s event boasted both record attendance and number of exhibitors.  Of the 450+ vendors showing their wares at least 250 of them were showing LED based products.  If you passed by an exhibit without LED’s you couldn’t help feeling sorry for that vendor – and imagining they might not be back for the party at LEDfair 2011.

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Jon Guerster is the CEO of Groom Energy Solutions.

Tags: bridgelux, general electric, groom energy, lightfair, lighting sciences, lunera, micron, osram, panasonic, philips, sanyo, toshiba