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Here be dragons

The first day of the Lighting Fixture Design conference ended in the Dragons’ Den, where three innovators braved the heat to subject their creations to expert scrutiny.

The five dragons scrutinise a selection of lighting innovations

Five fierce dragons prodded and poked the products to get to the bottom of the benefits and business potential.

The dragons came in the form of Michael Morrison of Crescent Lighting, Paul Cassidy of Whitecroft Lighting, Tim Downey of StudioFractal, Phil Champ of Champ Industrial Design and Richard Turner of Havells Sylvania.

The first man to face them was Marc Ottolini of iSotera, presenting a power and control system for LED lighting.

‘We all know the weakest link with LEDs is the power supply,’ said Ottolini. His wiring system converts mains power to high-frequency AC, and uses couplers to connect luminaires to a single output cable for the entire circuit. The contact-free couplers can provide a range of output currents, so that products requiring different power supplies can be easily and safely hooked up and reconfigured. The system offers a way around compatibility problems and minimises the safety risks associated with maintaining light fittings and circuits.

‘So,’ asked Morrison, ‘it’s totally safe? So if I take my handy fruit knife…’ He pulled a knife out of his pocket and motioned towards the product.

Ottolini didn’t even flinch. ‘That won’t ever stop your heart beating,’ he said. ‘It will trip the moment you cut it. There are multiple levels of safety built in. It is perfectly OK to connect on to it while the system is on.’

At the end of the battle Ottolini had tamed three of the beasts; Champ, Morrison and Turner. But Downey remained unconvinced this innovation would make his life any easier, saying: ‘As a lighting designer, having to argue about wiring is a pain in the arse.’

Next to enter the lair was David Nauth from Intematix, with ChromaLit, a remote phosphor light source. ‘There’s a need for innovation,’ Nauth began. ‘Something to get you out of the norms of conformity.’

He explained that the separation of light source and phosphor opens the doors to interchangeability, ‘giving you the ability to be really flexible’.

‘Remote phosphor allows you to choose colour temperatures and flip to whatever you like. It’s giving you that flexibility to be able to adjust to market efficiently.’

Light depreciation is minimised, Nauth said, because the phosphor is separated from the LED. But the product’s yellow shell was a turn-off for some of the dragons. ‘It isn’t the brilliantest design,’ Turner said. ‘I’ve heard this referred to as custard – or more recently puke. But to get the standards into that is very impressive.’

In the end, puke wasn’t enough to put the dragons off. Nauth tamed them all and got five yeses.

Downey particularly liked the ‘retro’ feel. ‘In a day of hi tech, this is about putting colour filters back in lamps,’ he said. ‘I’m in.’

Timothy Plumb of Lumenpulse faces the dragons

The final challenger to enter the den was Timothy Plumb of Lumenpulse. His weapon of choice: Lumentalk, a technology that uses existing power lines to control LED lighting.

Plumb said: ‘We believe it’s game changing tech that will accelerate the adoption of LED lighting systems.’

The bi-directional digital system works with existing management systems, taking input from standard control systems, converting the signal and transmitting it over the power line to the luminaire, which has a listening device in the form of a chip.

But when the dragons pushed for more technical details, Plumb wasn’t able to win them over. Turner said: ‘It sounds interesting, but sounds like it’s in very early stage. I’d need to see it, then I’d be willing to discuss it.’

Innovations like those presented in the den are transforming what lighting can achieve. But as we saw, when you’re broaching new territory, it’s not always easy to convince clients to come with you.

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