The world may be divided politically, but when it comes to the future direction and goals of the lighting industry, all minds are thinking alike.
Last month’s Hong Kong International Lighting Fair brought together manufacturers of nearly every category of lighting and controls, as well as buyers from numerous continents. With increased tariffs looming for North American distributors, the Fair’s timing was especially fortuitous for seeking out sources that would not be affected by the legislation.
In addition to the big chain distributors and behemoths like Amazon and Walmart, there were noticeably more individual American buyers who operate small showrooms searching for opportunities to partner with lesser-known vendors for unique products that would help differentiate them from their competition.
The staff of Beacon International, headquartered in Australia and having a presence in many countries including the USA, observed an increase in the number of American distributors stopping by the booth. As of press time, ceiling fans are still omitted from the list of imported items facing tariffs, and the manufacturer’s line of fandeliers – most notably Beacon’s new models from the Lucci Air line with retractable blades – got a lot of attention.
Some of the people I spoke with at the Fair expressed interest in the fandelier product category, wondering if ceiling fans with decorative integral light kits could offer effective ambient light, thereby escaping the tariff. Many manufacturers whose operations are not affected by the tariffs posted signs stating such at their booths as an incentive to American buyers at the show.
Besides the tariffs, the second most-talked-about topic at the Fair was Smart Lighting — both for cities and residences. For the first time, the category was given prominent exhibit space with a specially designed pavilion dedicated to top Smart Home vendors such as Philips, Tuya, Opple Lighting, YeeLight, and Tmall Genie (developed by Amazon competitor Alibaba Group). The prime location provided attendees with the opportunity to try out the technology via “experience centers.”
Furthermore, the full roster of educational sessions revolved around showcasing the latest developments on a global level concerning smart cities and smart lighting as well as forecasting where the technology is going. The consensus among European, Asian, U.K., and American industry experts is there is cause for concern the giant tech companies might supersede the lighting industry’s advances and capture the lion’s share of the consumer market bolstered by brand recognition/loyalty with the electronic devices they already have.
Another category at the Fair that has increased over past editions is horticulture lighting and its potential impact on helping to solve food scarcity in climate-challenged areas on a broad spectrum, and how it can be utilized on a smaller scale by grocery distributors and consumers to grow fresh, pesticide-free vegetables, thus reducing the incidents of wasted food due to spoilage in transit or from recalls due to contamination. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s exhibit demonstrated the group’s research and success with horticulture lighting and the various lighting “recipes” used to spur plant growth and engender specific characteristics. On a global level, the lighting industry will be seeing more products and educational sessions on horticulture applications in the future.
As much as the industry is focused on innovations in LED, it bears noting that there currently is still a large market for decorative fixtures in traditional forms. For example, the Iris Bohemian Crystal booth was bustling with attendees seeking large-scale glass fixtures for hospitality and residential installations, and other European-based manufacturers of transitional and traditional styles were similarly busy. While some models are being outfitted with LED, many traditional fixtures remain steadfastly incandescent in keeping with statistics that show complete LED adoption in the residential sector is still some years away.
Another sign that the world is getting smaller – from a lighting design perspective – is the consistency in global trends. Perhaps it is the barrage of images on social media making consumers in every portion of the world become like-minded regarding décor, but there is definitely an aesthetic accord. From old-fashioned Edison bulb shapes (with deliberately prominent filament) to the proliferation of home furnishings with Danish Hygge sensibilities, the design and consumer worlds are thinking with one mind.
With lighting and controls development advancing rapidly, attending educational trade shows regularly is part of an effective strategy for keeping pace with the latest technology in order to stand out from the competition.