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Cree's plan to accelerate LED adoption

Posting in Energy
Cree wants to everyone to switch to LED lighting. The company, which introduced an LED for under $10 last year, realized that if it wanted to accelerate adoption of the technology it would need to expand beyond the bulb—and dive into the commercial lighting controls market.

The North Carolina-based company announced this week it has developed a new self-programming wireless platform called SmartCast that it says reduces energy consumption by more than 70 percent (when using Cree LEDs) at half the cost of traditional lighting controls. 

The SmartCast platform has a lot of the same sensing capabilities that other lighting control systems have. Cree is pushing the simplicity of the system and says it's unique because it can be installed in minutes, requires no extra wiring and is easy to maintain. 

Commercial lighting customers have resisted installing traditional controls because of cost and complexity, and the majority of those who stop using them after the first year do so because they're difficult to maintain, said Norbert Hiller, Cree's executive vice president of lighting. 

To be clear, Cree is not creating something totally new here. Other companies have developed similar wireless controls systems that aim to make installation easier. For instance, rival Philips introduced a wireless lighting controls platform last year. Where Cree stands apart from most competitors (aside from Philips) is that it makes the LEDs used in the system. 

While there's plenty of competition in the lighting controls market, there's also a lot of opportunity. The market for intelligent lighting controls for commercial buildings is projected to grow from $1.7 billion in 2013 to $5.3 billion in annual revenue by 2020, according to Navigant Research. 

Thumbnail photo: Cree

— By on February 5, 2014, 9:03 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure