Let There Be LEDs

They're not just for stereo systems anymore.
CFO StaffMarch 17, 2003

CFOs who think they’ve maximized every technology investment their companies make should think again. While not, strictly speaking, a form of information technology, lighting does have an increasing technological aspect to it, particularly if it’s LEDs: light-emitting diodes. LEDs aren’t just for stereo systems anymore.

As the cost of the microchips that power each LED comes down, this form of lighting is being used for everything from flashlights and traffic signals to public-works projects including bridges, airport terminals, and the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. A company called Polyink (a joint venture between Seiko Epson and Cambridge Display Technology of the United Kingdom) hopes to develop LED-based monitors that would be thinner and brighter than current LCD models, although analysts believe that any serious challenge to LCD displays is years away. In 2001, a company called Color Kinetics provided LEDs for the Mid-Hudson Bridge in New York State. Now the bridge’s IT manager can use a PDA to trigger the lights remotely.

That may not have much to do with lowering your lighting bill at HQ, but LED proponents say the technology will soon be a viable way to light almost anything. Some experts believe that because LEDs are computer-controlled, lighting systems for homes and offices will be able to be programmed to produce a range of effects beneficial to mental health.

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Crossing the Chasm

How LEDs compare to conventional “necklace” lighting on the Mid-Hudson Bridge.

  LED Conventional
Construction cost $460,000 $425,000
Cost at $.075 per kwhr $930 $4,650
Bulb replacement 22 years 2 years
Average life (hours) 100,000 10,000

Source: Color Kinetics

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