Which Protocol is going to win in the Connected Lamps Market?

In the connected lamp world, there are a lot of questions with regards to which protocol will be the one most likely to succeed in the market. This is an industry that is still in its infancy, with several new players adding connected lighting to the world of connected products.

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I just finished Connected Lamps report which forecasts the market for A and Reflector style lamps through 2020, with a focus on the residential, retail and hospitality markets. I will be following up this blog with one containing some actual data on the report, but I thought it would be interesting to discuss something else on the connected lamp market first; protocols.

In the connected lamp world, there are a lot of questions with regards to which protocol will be the one most likely to succeed in the market. This is an industry that is still in its infancy, with several new players adding connected lighting to the world of connected products. We currently find ourselves in a market, where end users aren’t driving the market for each protocol, but rather the market is driving which protocol consumers are using. What I mean, is that general consumers don’t really have a full understanding of what differentiates one protocol from another, and therefore cannot make an educated purchasing decision on this matter.

ZigBee currently has the largest market share with regards to connected lamps in the North American market, with estimates of 80-90% in 2015. The main reason for this dominance is that it is an open source mesh network that manufacturers feel comfortable working with.

While Bluetooth is installed in more non lighting systems, particularly smart phones, it is not based on a mesh network but rather a star network, which hampers its adoption. While some products do offer Bluetooth mesh networks, these are proprietary solutions that are not open, and therefore products of different brands would not be able to work together on the same network. Wi-Fi, like Bluetooth currently uses a star network as well. However, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group and Wi-Fi Alliance have both promoted that they will release new open standards for their own mesh networks by the end of 2015.

6LoWPAN is not currently a major contender within the connected lamp market today. It does use a mesh network and that can communicate easily with both ZigBee and current Wi-Fi networks with a gateway. That being said it has not really been adopted in the lighting market over other protocols, as it is less of a proven technology and is currently in its infancy when compared to ZigBee. Currently, other connected household products (Nest line of products, and some LG products to name a few) do use this protocol, and there are efforts from third party consortiums like the “Thread Group” to promote this technology.

These are a few of my assumptions on how I think the protocol market will evolve for the connected lamp market:

1. The release of an open Bluetooth and Wi-Fi mesh system is forecasted to take place at the end of 2015, but I would assume that most major lamp manufacturers will not install it immediately in its lamps as they are comfortable with ZigBee and will probably plan for a year period to take place to ensure that the technology works properly before using it. I would assume that large manufacturers will have “major” releases of non-ZigBee lamps in 2017.

2. Once other mesh protocols have been accepted by the industry in this 2017 timeframe, it is my belief that more lamps will also use a hybrid technology that will allow for connectivity across several platforms. The main reason for this is that manufacturers do not want to be competing on which platform will dominate the market, but rather on making the best lamp. I think they will pounce on the opportunity to manufacture a lamp that works with most of its competitors.

So, in closing, I believe that ZigBee will continue to dominate through 2017, when a hybrid radio comes out that allows for several lamps using different protocols to be used together. If I had to pick two protocols, I would choose ZigBee for its wide usage today, and Bluetooth mesh, since it is used in so many smart phones.

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Strategies Unlimited recently released its connected lamp report: “Connected Lamps: Market Analysis and Forecast”.

The report will provide market numbers in the form of unit shipments and revenues for connected reflector and A-lamps in the most suitable applications (retail, hospitality, and residential) in North America, Western Europe, and the ROW. Numbers will be broken out into simple dimming, basic tunable white, complex tunable white and color changing lamps. The installed base of connected lamps vs. their non-connected LED and other technology counterparts will also be provided. All market numbers will have a forecast through 2020.

As this market evolves, there are many questions on which wireless protocol will be used for these purposes. This report provides a description and insights into the most widely used protocols today (Zigbee, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 6LoWPAN and others) as well as covering each lamp by functionality: simple dimming, basic tunable white, complex tunable white and color changing lamps, providing market forecasts for each.

We have also expanded our connected lighting research to include coverage of the connected outdoor lighting market and indoor connected lighting market as well.

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