Smart light bulbs could be game changer for lighting industry

Light bulbsThe light bulb is the universal symbol for new thought and invention.  Now the ubiquitous bulb is living up to its image with the introduction of a new lighting technology that could forever change the way we light our homes and businesses.

Late last month Philips unveiled its Hue light-emitting diode (LED) light bulb, which can be controlled and programmed remotely from an iPad, iPhone, or Android device.  The nifty system can cast an endless rainbow of colors and can dim and turn off and on when a homeowner is away.

It’s an exciting new product and many are touting Hue as a “game changer.” New technology is a way for the lighting industry to boost sales, and that’s a critical issue. Output of US lighting fixtures, bulbs, and parts manufacturing is forecast to grow by only 2 percent in 2013, compared to 2012, according to the latest First Research forecast from INFORUM.

The lighting industry has faced several challenges related to the adoption of new technologies in the past several years. Consumers have been slow to make the switch from incandescent bulbs to more-energy-efficient LED bulbs. Cost is a big deterrent as LEDs can be 8 to 10 times more expensive than regular bulbs. Energy-efficient bulbs also last longer, delaying replacement sales.

If costs have hindered consumers from widely adopting regular LED bulbs, it is safe to say that the HUE bulb also could face similar problems. Hue is available exclusively through Apple stores, and a starter kit (including three bulbs) costs $199. Additional bulbs cost $56.

Hue and other automated lighting systems will help consumers save money in the long run, as they use a fraction of the power of traditional bulbs. But will it be enough for people to spend the money up front? If LED lighting technology takes off in a big way, Philips and other major players in the industry stand to benefit from new products. But if consumers pass on smart bulbs, it could just be a fad.

Laura Huchzermeyer

Laura Huchzermeyer is an industry specialist for D&B's First Research at Hoover's. She keeps a watchful eye on the financial services, construction, and real estate industries. Follow her on Twitter.

Read more articles by Laura Huchzermeyer.

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