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China Intelligent Lighting Systems Market

Introduction

Electric lighting has come a long way since the first filament bulbs. After their creation in 1802 by English chemist and inventor Humphrey Davy, it would take 80 years of further research by Thomas Edison and others to introduce the world to what we know today as electric lighting. It was not until 1881 that the Savoy Theatre in London was lit by incandescent light bulbs; the first theatre and first public building in the world to be lit entirely by electricity.

Lighting systems and the technology they utilize have changed somewhat over the last 130 years, and though the purpose of such systems remains the same, their complexity and capabilities have expanded somewhat. This article takes a cursory glance at modern lighting solutions and development trends in the lightings system industry, with a focus on the development of the Chinese market for intelligent lighting.

Markets

It could be said that there two main user groups for electric lights. The first are home users; individuals, couples and families, the second are commercial and organizational users. These groups not only differ between themselves in practical needs for lighting solutions; within each group exists sub-groups, with a great variation of lighting requirements. Businesses and organizations for example have varying needs, from glitzy chandeliers in five star hotel lobbies to adaptive lighting for factory shop floors, and from disco ball lights to gallery spots. Hoteliers need to create an aura of soothing, welcoming “mood lighting” in guest rooms to attract occupants, and home users and families often want a lighting style which contributes to a warm and comfortable atmosphere, and one which perhaps provides highlights for home design features or decoration. Among businesses and organizations, there are four main subgroups of users. These could be categorized as those in hospitality: hotels, restaurants, bars, discos etc; in commercial and public buildings: office blocks, government departments, train stations, airports and municipal spaces, those in entertainment and leisure: for shows, events, theatre productions, sports stadiums, gymnasiums and expositions; and industrial, for production environments and factory shop floors.

Each of these groups has its own requirements, and as the market becomes more sensitive to these requirements, it is responding more appropriately. While high technology lighting was once limited in scope to its birthplace, theatre shows and on stage, the single most important trend in modern lighting solutions is a greater and greater level of high-tech integration across all user bases. Where use of high technology as part of a lighting system was once limited to niche industries, it is now being utilized by all.

ILS China Market Share Breakdown by End-user Type - 2010
China Intelligent Lighting Systems Market Share Breakdown by End-user Type - GCiS
Source: GCiS

Technology

The level of high technology used in everyday items other than PCs and home entertainment systems has been on the rise since the cell phone became commonplace. Technology in lighting is aimed not only at improving efficiency and lighting capability; it is also intended to give users a greater range of control over solutions and expand the scope of platforms for control. Perhaps the area with the most focus is refinement and improvement of lighting system control software.

Software controllers are programs which help the user control lighting and are now designed to interact with all kinds of components and sensors, allowing the user to make precise personal adjustments and tweaks. Software controllers are accessible via LCD panels, computers and even the latest generation of smart phones. Programmable controls allow users to specify from a multitude of options as to how their lighting solutions perform. This can allow for programmable lighting scenes, modes, sets and sequences. An example may be lighting which becomes progressively brighter as evening approaches in order to maintain constant indoor lighting levels, or lights which dim during summer months in order to save on costs of electricity consumption. More complex programs can control complex light shows or adaptive mood lighting.

Depending on the use of sensors and other components, lighting can be programmed to respond to stimuli from the environment. For example, with use of an infrared sensor, lighting can be programmed to automatically power on when a person enters a room and off when they leave. Alternatively, indoor lighting can respond directly to natural lighting levels with feedback from photo-sensors placed appropriately. Systems can even be linked to bugler alarms and fire safety systems to help warn users of potential dangers with flashing light sequences or special illumination signals.

Uptake and Application

The greatest barrier to faster development and uptake of intelligent lighting in China is lack of awareness. Although showing promising signs of development, the market is still likely to remain stifled until a greater understanding of the product penetrates beyond the top layer of the potential user base; currently these kinds of systems can only be found in five star hotels, high level commercial office buildings and the luxury villas of the rich and super-rich. There is still no significant incentive for ordinary buyers, in terms of potential savings from electricity efficient lighting, especially in China where energy remains quite heavily subsidized by the government. Convenience, aesthetics and a luxurious lifestyle image are the features that currently sell these systems, but manufacturers are confident that this will change in time, and that this kind of lighting will greatly reduce energy consumption.

Due to the different types of demand coming from various end-user segments, manufacturers tend, at present, to be fairly focused on one or two of these major groups. The largest producers in the market tend to be foreign companies, they have greater experience in the industry and have been investing heavily in R&D for years. Chinese companies on the whole tend to be newer entrants into the “intelligent” side of the lighting industry, but some, like Haier are sure to do well in the domestic market in the long term. The three most famous names in the high tech section of the lighting industry are Schneider, Crestron and Lutron. These three big players focus mainly on sales to the hospitality industry and the commercial construction industry, with nuanced approaches to both. Schneider and Crestron currently focus a little more on high level hotels, where Lutron aims more at commercial construction, but all are active in both industries. Domestic company Haier on the other hand has chosen to put nearly all its focus on developing the residential market, one which is expected to grow at a significantly greater rate than currently, once awareness and energy prices are raised. Most of the intelligent lighting systems to be found in use today in China are in the top five star hotels, and landmark type buildings located in the CBDs of major Chinese cities, although there are also some municipal projects in operation also, such as the lighting systems to be found in the newer airports and larger train stations around the country.


Market Opportunity Matrix for Quality ILS Suppliers by End-user Type
Market Opportunity Matrix for Quality Intelligent Lighting Systems Suppliers in China - GCiS
Source: GCiS ?The matrix above roughly illustrates the relative size of each end-user industry by revenue, set in the context of requirements on the X axis and industry growth on the Y axis.

Recent Developments and the Future

With the rise of mobile technology in recent years, the market has seen further adaptation towards greater flexibility and convenience for users. Lighting system controllers from all industry segments can now be accessed and monitored from smart mobile devices, such as the IPhone or IPad, allowing users to control lighting from these familiar hand held gadgets. They also allow for long rage real-time monitoring and adjustment, giving users the ability to control their lighting solutions from anywhere on the globe.

Intelligent lighting systems form just a small part of a growing trend towards the design of intelligent buildings, houses and apartments. Lighting systems manufacturers often provide other systems, such as audio visual, climate control and fire safety as well as electric windows, curtains and doors. Manufacturers are currently expanding the real-time monitoring capabilities of their systems and encouraging customers to install additional components. For example, with cameras added to a system, a user is able to make visual checks on a property or location physically far from them with convenient system access from their smart-phone or notebook. These companies hope to encourage customers to link a number of intelligent systems together, which can increase the performance and energy saving capabilities of the set, reducing running costs and providing a convenient platform for users to manage all aspects of their indoor environments.

These features may not all come at once to modern homes or offices, but intelligent buildings are on the rise and are certain to be desirable places to live and work due to the added level of convenience they offer. Though we do not yet live in the world of The Jetsons, intelligent building technology suggests we are getting closer, and despite differences in perceived demand, “intelligent” homes are more practical (and likely much safer) than flying cars.

About GCiS China Strategic Research

GCiS (www.GCiS.com.cn) is a China-based market research and advisory firm focused on business to business markets. Since 1997, GCiS has been working with leading multinationals in sectors ranging from technology to industrial markets, medical, chemicals, resources, building and constructions and a few others.

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