Cree has joined the battle for SSL dominance on a new front: lighting controls. The field is already crowded, and Philips may be the contender to beat.
Cree has announced its wireless luminaire control technology, SmartCast. The company claims extremely simple installation with no new components or wiring needed beyond replacement luminaires and dimming switches; built-in occupancy sensing and daylight harvesting; and one-button, hands-off automatic configuration and grouping of luminaires.
Acuity Brands (which acquired the lighting firm Adura last January), Daintree Networks, Enlighted, and Redwood systems (acquired by CommScope last July) all have similar wireless controls systems designed to cut back on the complexity of installation in commercial office buildings. Each company pitches its product in the same way.
Cree is also likely to run into specialty controls companies, the likes of Digital Lumens, at the high end of the market.
The toughest competitor Cree will face in the controls space may well be Philips. The lighting giant announced its SpaceWise wireless control tech at Lightfair last April. SpaceWise is being showcased now because it was selected by the US General Services Administration for evaluation in its Green Proving Ground program.
Cree has some advantages over the startups and upstarts in marketing its SmartCast tech. Its vertical integration means the company can go it alone without partnerships in advancing SmartCast. It has a fully developed sales force and ready access to lighting channels.
But these advantages don't mean a lot in the face of Philips's longtime dominance and marketing muscle in the lighting business. Cree has made great strides in taking on the big boys of SSL over the last half dozen years, but the fight for controls is shaping up to be a more bruising battle.
— Keith Dawson , Editor-in-Chief, All LED Lighting