With its exclusive range of connected lighting systems and services, Philips Lighting is all set to develop the smart cities of tomorrow. In a conversation with the Electronics Bazaar team, Harshavardhan Chitale, vice chairman and MD, Philips Lighting India, shares his views on the recent advances in the lighting industry and their applicability in the Indian environment.
EB: The developments in connected lighting systems are progressing at a rapid pace globally, but very few of us are aware of their benefits. Can you highlight the major advantages of using this technology?
It is a known fact that lighting systems worldwide are moving increasingly towards electronic lights, which are LEDs. Now, the LED lights have also moved one step ahead to become smart and connected lighting systems. The moment this happens, the lights are no longer being used just for illumination because every frequency is now controllable. The first advantage of using such lights is the flexibility you get to modulate and manage them. Second, these smart connected lighting systems have integrated sensors to measure things like temperature, vibration, quality and occupancy. Last of all, by simply adding a communication chip-on-board, these lights will be able to do remote diagnostics and analytics. So these are some crucial functions that are becoming possible in connected lighting systems.
EB: What are the new value propositions of connected LED technology that are driving consumers to make a shift?
Well, there is a wide array of value propositions that is emerging with the advent of connected LED technology. For instance, now there are lights that help you heal faster. It has been scientifically proved that there are certain frequencies of light that promote faster recovery and are, therefore, good for post-operative care. Philips Lighting has one such solution called the HealWell lighting system, which creates a healing environment and makes a patient’s stay more comfortable in healthcare institutes. Then there are lights that help you navigate through stores or buildings using connected LED technology. Apart from navigating, this high accuracy technology can also tell you the exact spot a person is standing in, by making use of a location sensor.
These days, lights that are just energy-efficient are not going to motivate customers to shift to LED lighting. Therefore, being an experienced lighting technology player, we are actually creating some value propositions from our end by taking customer insights and also promoting them.
EB: How can startups make use of connected LED technology?
This brand new lighting dimension offers great scope for startups. What you can do with connected lighting technology is entirely based on the application. And the moment you enter the application domain or digital domain, your imagination is the only limitation. So, the sole challenge for startups is to explore the untapped application areas and develop something that can be used in the real world.
To track down the new use cases around Hue lighting, last year, we organised a hackathon in Bengaluru and received a tremendous response. There were 98 entries from startups and students, who discovered some great application areas. Many of the apps developed are now available on App Store or Play store. All you have to do is download and use them in your day-to-day life. Today, we have about 800 such lighting-based apps for Philips Hue. So, this is a good example of how startups are contributing in the promotion of connected lighting systems.
EB: If we consider LED implementation in India, the scenario is quite bright at the top end of the value chain, but do you think it is equally bright on the manufacturing side? What are the company’s plans regarding this?
In India, currently the highest penetration of LED lights is seen in offices. About 80 per cent of luminaires in office areas are LEDs and many firms have now started using intelligent connected LEDs. At the consumer end, the adoption rate is about 30 per cent. But if we consider the manufacturing segment, the penetration is relatively low. This is mainly because manufacturing areas need more rugged lights that can withstand high temperatures and a dusty environment. A lot more technological developments are needed to design lights that can operate reliably under such harsh conditions. We at Philips India are innovating to develop lights that are not only rugged and reliable but also energy efficient.
EB: In the Union Budget 2017, the government made a number of duty structure changes with respect to the LED manufacturing ecosystem. What are your views on this?
Well, I would say this is not something that is happening all of a sudden. The government of India has already been very supportive and formulated a lot of policies ensuring a preferential duty structure for LED manufacturing in the country, in earlier budgets. A few more got added in the current Union Budget, which will further help in streamlining the manufacturing process.
EB: According to you, why is it important to follow stringent standards when manufacturing LED bulbs in India?
To explain this, I would like to cite an example of CFL implementation in India. Ten to 15 years ago, when the CFL wave first swept across India, the country faced a major setback because of a lot of cheap imports. These imported CFL bulbs failed miserably here, because they were designed for a completely different grid system where voltage fluctuations are rare. This was an eye-opener which forced the Indian government to adopt and implement the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), keeping in mind the local power conditions. And as soon as the government enforced this standard, good quality CFL bulbs started coming into the market.
In the case of LEDs, the government kept pace with developments on the ground. It modified the standards at a time when the LED industry was growing. But the proper enforcement of these standards is still lacking in the country. Strict enforcement of Indian standards is extremely important because it gives an advantage to every manufacturer who is designing and making in India.
EB: How does Philips Lighting India manufacture products as per Indian standards?
Philips Lighting India is a leading manufacturer with 10,000 people employed in lighting related manufacturing in India. We have tied up with some local contract manufacturers who clearly understand the power conditions in India and manufacture solely for us. About 95 per cent of our products are designed and manufactured in India. We are more local than most local companies when it comes to lighting, because our company is aware of the Indian power grid systems and therefore, we design products that can sustain the high rate of voltage fluctuations.
Also, Philips is in favour of Indian standards that ensure consumer comfort, safety and convenience. We were the first in the lighting industry to adhere to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). Last year alone we introduced 300 new products and all of them are BIS compliant. So, the primary reason we have a rich customer base in the domestic market is that our company understands India, ‘Make in India’ and ‘Design in India.’