– Doug Ford and Ken Sinclair
Doug Ford, President/CEO, Touch-Plate Lighting Controls
has been the President / CEO of Touch-Plate Lighting Controls since
1987. He has extensive experience in new product development, and
also has worked with many lighting and controls companies in OEM
arrangements. Doug has traveled extensively, and is actively
involved in the global supply chain logistics for Touch-Plate.
The Coming Impact of LED Lighting on Controls
We have reached the point where we can put the lighting controls in the LED fixture, or directly above it or beside it.
Sinclair: I saw you at the AHR Show in Chicago, you were one of the few
promoting lighting controls at this show. What do you see as the
next big thing in Lighting Control?
Ford: We were really glad we exhibited at the AHR Show. We
exhibited at the Strategies in Light / LED Show in Vegas a month
later. Most of the coming change is all centered around the
incredible wave of LED light fixtures. With the lumens per watt
going up and the fixture cost going down, we have reached the point
where we can put the lighting controls in the LED fixture, or directly
above it or beside it. The future looks bleak for smart breakers,
remote relay panels and remote dimmers.
Sinclair: How long do you think it will take for this new type of lighting control to become viable?
Ford: It is happening fast. The venture capital community
has thrown over $230 million to date on four new disruptor
companies. One of them is Ecosense and it's a George Mueller
company and Ihor Lys is a board member. These are the guys who
started Color Kinetics which was eventually purchased by Philips.
The other companies are Digital Lumens, Enlighted and Terralux. I
don't know the backgrounds of the founders of these but it doesn't
appear they have much history in the lighting industry. But with
all this money being thrown at them it became clear that the race was
on for the rest of us that are already connected to the industry to
aggressively move forward with smart LED fixtures, smart sensors, and
Sinclair: Are you telling me Touch-Plate Lighting Controls is
doing the same thing, smart fixtures, sensors and wireless products?
Ford: Yes we are. The good news is we can do it fairly
quickly and for a fraction of the amount of money these other startups
received. We have a tremendous amount of ability in new product
creation. So we will increase the number of sensors we offer, add
wireless solutions, and maintain our ability to speak BACnet, Modbus
Sinclair: So in the very near future there will be many companies offering smart LED fixtures, just more items in the IoT?
Ford: I believe so. I'm certain Philips, GE, Cree,
Lithonia, Cooper and Hubbell are all going to have something to compete
in this arena. But there will be more, lots more. This is
the most exciting thing I've witnessed in my 28 years of doing lighting
control. I vividly remember the early 1990's when Echelon started
putting on seminars and declaring there would be an Echelon chip
everywhere, in the breaker, in the fixture, in the relay, in the
dimmer, etc. They promised the chips would get down to under
$2. Needless to say, Echelon never really became the next big
thing, they achieved a little success, but nothing at all like they
promised and projected. The LED thing is going to be out of
control. There are numerous Crowd Funded offerings hoping to
succeed. There are multiple products to choose from that say they
do both ZigBee and Z Wave and also do Wi-Fi. The home market will
be very confusing and difficult for companies to be profitable.
But our strength and direction will be the commercial / industrial
market. BACnet is very mature and accepted globally. The
same with DMX, it's been around forever. So if we have wireless
solutions that immediately link to either a BACnet or DMX system we
increase our value and our chance at success.
Sinclair: Is there a dark side to the LED wave that's coming?
Ford: Definitely. I'm afraid there will be some truth but
also lots of lies. Some will be touting LED's as the cure for
whatever ails you. Some will oversell the capability. I
think we are going to grow weary hearing about Circadian
Rhythms. The promises that we are all going to become healthier,
sleep better, heal faster, be more cheerful, be more productive,
improve our test scores and be the happiest people on the planet all
because of new LED technology is going to get tiring. I'm certain
there will be some great benefits to using LED's, but it will take time
to really prove all the claims. But it is a very clear and
natural fact that using LED's is going to save lots of money on energy
costs. I know there are coming breakthroughs in using LED's as
grow lights for plants. There will be lots of good, but we will
likely have to live with some bad side effects when something is
growing this rapidly.
Sinclair: Is the primary driver behind the LED wave energy savings or is it to become 'Green'?
Ford: It is linked. Certainly it started out for many as
the 'Green' solution. Just like solar and wind, the move toward
LED was going to make the world a better place, reduce the carbon
footprint and dramatically reduce the amount of energy we needed to
produce. But now there are some very powerful motivating factors
that are giving this a boost. The most recent Title 24
regulations added a Demand Response aspect to reduce light levels
immediately and at every fixture. It also required that the
lighting had to be able to communicate with the building's Energy
Management System. This is a great boost to the lighting
control companies. The IoT is a huge motivator for some.
Cisco is moving forward with their Energywise solution, and they hope
to make Lighting as a Service a reality. With all the investment
dollars coming in and the big players adding their new offerings this
has created a frenzy of product development. The 'Big Data'
aspect of this is driving some, there is lots of Venture Capital money
going to the software side of this. But certainly for our company
the number one driver is the cost savings. We've recently made
arrangements with two finance companies that allow us to offer new LED
fixtures, our controls, the labor to change and any recycling fees for
the old lamps to the End User at a Zero Down cost, and pay from
the savings. This is huge. We are providing 70% to 90%
savings to our customers. It is nice to be 'Green', it's nice to
be all of the other positive things. But it is a no-brainer to
move forward when you can do so with nothing down and be cost positive
while you pay the finance companies with your monthly savings.
Sinclair: Thank you for sharing your insights on this exciting new direction with LED's.
Ford: Thank you Ken, so glad you have this publication to keep us all informed. Best Wishes.
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