A few weeks ago, the world’s most innovative lighting companies were in Philadelphia for the annual LIGHTFAIR International (LFI) event, the preeminent architectural and commercial lighting trade show and conference. LFI is a hotbed of discussion about the future of lighting, the new advancements in lighting technologies and the ways in which technology is shaping how we approach lighting our world.
One of the companies that has been in the lighting industry since its inception, and that has continued to innovate for nearly 100 years, is the GE company, Current. The company revealed a number of new lighting solutions at this year’s LFI, and has a long history of being on the cutting edge of new light technologies.
Immediately following LFI, we had an opportunity to sit down with Rudy Calderon, General Manager for Industrial at Current, to talk about the state of the lighting industry, new advancements in the marketplace and what Current anticipates will be the future of the industry. During our discussion, Rudy talked about what makes Current unique, how energy efficiency is driving innovation across the industry and the importance of making solutions easy and inexpensive to implement.
Here is what he had to say:
Rudy Calderon: Current considers itself a digital industrial business. What we focus on is energy efficiency, safety and driving business optimization for customers.
The two main products that we have to offer are our LED products and our control solutions. Our LED solutions include a large portfolio of indoor fixtures for the office, warehouse, manufacturing locations, parking lots and roadways. Current has been in the LED industry since the beginning, and in the lighting industry for more than 100 years thanks to the history and tradition of GE.
The other piece of our product offering involves controls. We have a platform called DainTree that includes controls and sensors that monitor people’s motions, room occupancy levels, room occupancy temperature, air quality and light levels. The solution can monitor these things and then subsequently control lighting and HVAC based on a customer’s needs and requirements.
What we’re trying to do is to put together solutions for customers that incorporate both parts of our portfolio – LED solutions and controls – and give them the ability to make the jump to cloud connectivity and the IoT in the future. Once we get the LEDs into their organization and incorporate sensors and controls, we create the opportunity to work with the customer or other third parties to put together business productivity applications that help equipment owners maximize their investment and get the most out of their equipment.
MEM: What differentiates Current solutions from other lighting solutions on the market?
Rudy Calderon: There are three particular areas where Current products and solutions differentiate themselves. These include energy consumption, ease of use and price. We work hard to ensure that our products produce the most light or lumen output with the least amount of energy consumed. Our efficacy in some high bay fixtures will generate $90 to $100 in incremental savings over the life of the fixture versus most competitors. This incremental savings is significant when you start to think of a company like GM that has 100,000+ fixtures converting to LED.
The second differentiator is the materials and labor cost per fixture. The labor and installation piece can be more than 40 to 60 percent of the cost of the project. So, we work hard to ensure that our products are easy to install and can be installed more quickly. This ensures that the job is completed more quickly, reducing the cost to install for the end user. We also work to make our products smaller and lighter, which makes it easier to move and install.
The third differentiator is the cloud connectivity and ability to enable customers to move to the IoT. We’ve worked to enable customers to pick and choose which sensors they want to incorporate into their systems.
Our Daintree system is open on the top and open on the bottom. If a user gets a sensor that they want to incorporate on their site – whether that’s an office, a warehouse or a manufacturing plant – there is a number of third party sensor providers that they can choose from that will interoperate with our system. Users aren’t handcuffed to any one sensor provider – they can find and implement the best from across the ecosystem and marketplace. Then, the user also owns the data, so they can use any number of third party applications to aggregate and analyze that data.
MEM: How do “smarter” lighting solutions help with energy efficiency and overall operational cost to the customer?
Rudy Calderon: When users couple the control system with the LED fixtures, they get the ability to better manage their lighting systems. They can do task tuning which allows them to shape the lumen output of their systems and influence the energy cost. They can do smart occupancy which allows them to gauge the amount of people in a particular zone and eliminate or dim the lights in places where people aren’t. They can even do advanced things like daylight harvesting – gauging the natural light in the building and adjusting artificial lighting appropriately.
But there are even more opportunities for cost efficiency from cloud connectivity. You can have an energy efficient building and then save an additional 20 percent or so on energy consumption through controls, but there is an even larger opportunity in business productivity.
We can use the lights in the ceiling to track specific assets as they move around the facility and have those assets be located within a one or two foot area to truly improve productivity. Imagine if you could enable predictive maintenance and identify if a device – such as an HVAC unit – was about to fail and get it serviced in advance. Smarter systems and connectivity are all about making our customers more productive and efficient. Those are just two use cases that can be rolled out now – imagine what the future will bring.
MEM: What drove the company’s cloud initiatives? Were they driven by Current, or by customer demand?
Rudy Calderon: The decision to cloud enable our devices was driven by Current and not our customers. In the past, you would have to go installation to installation and do updates manually. The cloud eliminates the need for that and allows for real-time firmware updates.
From a customer perspective, customers were looking to gain access to their data. There is an ecosystem of application developers and third-party software companies creating solutions that can analyze and utilize equipment data. Customers wants to get their data out there so that they could utilize business productivity applications. And that’s something we’re seeing across all verticals and industries – retail, commercial, high-tech, industrial, manufacturing, etc.
MEM: Do you have any examples of these smarter, more connected devices in action?
Rudy Calderon: I’ll give you a great example of these sensors in action. Current worked with a large consumer packaged goods company – an enormous company with a lot of employees, multiple offices and many conference rooms.
They found that their conference room scheduling wasn’t as effective as it should be. Employees would schedule a room and then not use it for one reason or another. Unfortunately many times the room stayed booked, making it unavailable for others that needed it. Utilizing our solution and sensors along with a software partner’s API, they were able to determine if employees failed to utilize a room at the reserved time, and subsequently free up the room for others to use. This allowed them to optimize their meeting rooms, while getting their employees to do what is most productive for the company.
MEM: The annual LIGHTFAIR Event just passed. Was there anything that Current announced or introduced at this year’s show that our readers might find interesting?
Rudy Calderon: On the LED fixture side, there were three or four important product launches. One was a LUR Refit for a fixture that is often implemented in retail locations that utilizes fluorescent lighting. Instead of changing out the entire fixture, this refit will decrease the cost of implementation by allowing the owner to retrofit the entire fixture to work with LED. This is a great solution for customers that have existing fixtures today but want the increased energy efficiency of LED.
In addition to the LUR Refit, Current also announced some exciting new outdoor products – including its ERLC Compact Cobra Head solution. This outdoor light is 30 percent lighter and offers to bring the same level of control and management that you would see on highways and in smart cities to parking lots and side streets. Other new announcements and product launches included an advanced horticulture solution for greenhouses and a number of smart sensors.
For additional information about Current, visit them at www.currentbyge.com.