The lighting industry is undergoing a major transformation and the emergence of IoT has brought a new dimension to lighting as a solution. Here’s an attempt to identify the opportunities and challenges in Indian smart lighting market.

The lighting market which is divided into LED (70 percent) and conventional (30 percent) has two segments: Lamps and fixtures. The lamps and standard fixtures are sold primarily through trade and products like battens and specialised fixtures (professional lighting) are sold directly to projects and the project dealers and contractors. Professional lighting includes specialised lighting and automation for offices, hospitality, healthcare etc.; architectural lighting; lighting for industries; street lights; lighting for public infrastructure like airport, rail stations etc. According to Dinesh Aggarwal, Joint Managing Director, Panasonic Life Solutions India Pvt. Ltd., the post COVID effect on each of the above segment will be different. He said, “While the demand for lighting in residential projects will be there and we believe that construction in office space will be slowed down. It will be limited to the completion of existing projects that are at an advanced stage. The new projects likely to generate demand during the year will include public infrastructure.”

The development in the home automation segment has also boosted the use of Internet of Things (IoT) based lighting systems. More importantly, there are government initiatives like ‘Digital India’ and ‘Smart City Mission’ that continue to educate and encourage people to choose smarter electrical solutions starting with smart lights. Further, with people being home bound during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are investing in upgrading their homes with the latest technology for a better work from home experience. And since smart technology is the norm, experts believe that the smart light market is likely to benefit from this demand. 

Smart lighting is the stimulus for the smart home revolution and Bishan Jain, Director at Goldmedal Electricals feels that the COVID-19 crisis will boost this revolution. “With more people working from home, there will be a need for smarter lighting solutions that are energy efficient, long lasting and designed with a simple user interface. If the current scenario is indicative of anything, it is of the fact that the Indian smart lighting market will expand and stay on its expected course of growth,” he opines. 

However, on the contrary, Ms Sharmila Kumbhat, Director at K-Lite Industries observed that the current scenario with the COVID-19 pandemic has derailed all forecasts and projections. She said, “With no sign of a complete recovery, we may have to revalidate our plans since the economic recovery has to face uphill tasks. Particularly for the smart lighting projects, the major share has to come from the government and urban public. Both sectors have a very serious beating in this crisis. Even the revalidation will have to wait for quite some time.” 

The pandemic looks to be changing the pattern of labour availability and labour migration to urban areas. In India, it had been estimated that 25-30 people migrate every minute in search of a better livelihood and now the migration pattern is going to be different. “India has to find smarter ways to manage complexities, reduce expenses, increase efficiencies and improve quality of life, or face the consequences. All of these demand new solutions. Digital solutions like smart lighting will be one among them,” said Ms Sharmila.

Smart lighting and current load on Internet
The emergence of IoT has brought new dimension to lighting as a solution. As smart lighting is mostly Wi-Fi enabled, from an end-user’s point of view, there is always a concern about the load on the Internet. Commenting on this, Mr Aggarwal said, “The Wi-Fi is used to communicate with lighting devices and not for data transfer or any downloads. This is majorly for the communication protocol which is used to give the command. So, there is not much of an impact due to this on the smart lighting segment.” Ms Sharmila also doesn’t foresee any issue for the smart lighting market due to the probable heavy load with many Wi-Fi enabled smart devices connected in the network as the Internet connectivity technology has reached a high level. 

However, Mr Jain observes: “The current load on the Internet will definitely impact the market and therefore manufacturers need to design and manufacture their products to suit the market tendencies especially when it is paired with IoT ecosystems and smart lighting control systems.”

Challenges faced in adoption of smart lighting 

Ms Sharmila Kumbhat of K-Lite Industries outlines some of the consumers’ expectations from a smart lighting system which include: 

  • Intelligent lighting should offer several key benefits to a city. It should allow constant monitoring of system status, obtain details of failures in real time, decide as to when, where and how much to switch on or dim, monitoring every unit from wherever one wishes. 
  • Basically the intelligent lighting system should transform lighting systems into a new territorial communications network and enable an intelligent support capable of activating a wide range of services to improve quality of life and make cities more intelligent, safe and sustainable. 
  • Reduction of carbon footprint and long-term operation costs with Energy efficient LED Lighting system.
  • Operational integration with real time data allowing lighting control as and when required.
  • Street disturbances and law and order system monitoring through noise detection, CCTV and community response.
  • Traffic flow monitoring and data generation for city planning.
  • Air pollution monitoring integrated into the lighting network. 
  • Extension of Wi-Fi services through the street light network.

All the above features are challenges in their own right when applying for an existing urban area where the network is in existence and in all the possible haphazard and unorganised way, Ms Sharmila observed. 

Further, while incorporating smart lighting into one’s home is quite easy and safe, it does come with a few challenges that are subjective to individual brands and/or customer requirements. According to Bishan Jain of Goldmedal Electricals, “One of the biggest challenges for some customers may be connectivity. Many Indian tier-two cities and towns are still struggling with uninterrupted connectivity and this can impact the performance of the smart lighting systems.”

He adds, “Another roadblock for customers might be the fact that the initial set up costs of many smart lighting systems are a bit high. With certain brands there is also the issue of interoperability. This not only offers limited service choices and function but also has the risk of obsolescence. There are many manufacturers that offer low cost alternatives but there are various risks associated with them including personal safety and data security. Many systems might not align with customer’s design needs, integration expectation and energy management requirements.”

New developments
Panasonic strengthens R&D and testing arm
The total lighting market stands at close to Rs 20,000 crore. From this, the outdoor lighting market holds a 50 percent share of the total professional lighting market which is largely driving the growth of the overall lighting market which is mainly because of the government investing heavily in setting up infrastructure, smart cities, and other such development initiatives. 

Panasonic Life Solutions offers a complete range of energy-efficient and smart lighting products, right from indoor commercial, industrial, outdoor, retail, and hospitality segment. On the lighting front, the company is adding a dedicated R&D and testing facility. “We have invested Rs 6 crore in this facility which will feature state-of-the-art equipment from Germany (Goniometer Integrating Sphere). The (upcoming) facility would be certified by NABL and will help us design and make high-quality products for domestic and export markets and it will reduce our new product development timeline by nearly 30 percent. This will further boost customer confidence in our products and technical competence,” informed Mr Aggarwal. 

K-Lite finalising a foreign smart lighting project
Luminaires manufacturer K-Lite Industries is in the process of finalising a foreign project to supply for major smart lighting project with smart poles and allied fixtures for a city. The pilot project to simulate the various functions involved through a lighting pole combined with smart lighting and allied sensors such as vehicle movement sensor, pollution monitoring etc. have been completed. “We have an additional strength to make every type of poles and also custom-built poles to suit the specific requirement and for installing all sensors and signages over and above the lighting fixtures. Our scope will be limited to the specialised poles and luminaires and integrate them with the allied accessories for the smart system,” informed Ms Sharmila.

Smart lighting has an exciting future
The lighting industry is undergoing a major transformation. With increasing awareness about the climate crisis and the need for sustainability, the market has seen a rise in demand of products that are energy-efficient and eco-friendly. In the next wave, according to Mr Jain, the lighting industry is likely to focus on smart lighting devices that are aligned with the sustainability needs of the market. He adds: “It is also projected to have a human centric design approach—in keeping with the ever-changing user behavior and needs. With the ongoing research on use of sensors and lasers in lighting, the market is expected to have advanced gesture control lighting and motion detection lighting soon.”

Researchers in the industry are also working to find solutions and set standards for interoperability. With the massive ongoing research in this sector, smart lighting has an exciting future that promises a range of new and advanced products and solutions.

The (upcoming) facility would be certified by NABL and will help us design and make high-quality products for domestic and export markets.
Dinesh Aggarwal, Joint Managing Director, Panasonic Life Solutions India Pvt. Ltd.

With no sign of a complete recovery, we may have to revalidate our plans since the economic recovery has to face uphill tasks.
Ms Sharmila Kumbhat, Director, K-Lite Industries 

With the ongoing research on use of sensors and lasers in lighting, the market is expected to have advanced gesture control lighting and motion detection lighting soon.
Bishan Jain, Director, Goldmedal Electricals

Reference: EPR Magazine