Isotera wants to make LED efficiency easy

It wasn’t that long ago that LED lighting was viewed as a great, efficient technology of the future … that is, a technology you weren’t likely to see widely used anytime soon because of its high cost and limited functionality.

Today, though LED (for “light-emitting diode”) lighting is easy to find at anywhere from small dollar stores to giant home-improvement retailers, and you can find lights in all sorts of forms too: dimmable, submersible, color-changing, rope, panel and so on. While they’re still more expensive than other light bulbs, LEDs have also generally become more affordable.

Until recently, though, they were still costly to install if you wanted to update an entire office building, shop, hospital or school with LEDs. That’s because LEDs require direct-current (DC) while the mains run on alternating-current (AC) power. As a result, LEDs typically need LED drivers to regulate the power from the grid. Wiring drivers, fixtures and controls across a large space tends to be effort-intensive, time-consuming and costly.

Isotera aims to change that.

A UK-based startup, Isotera operates from the principle that installing LED fixtures should be “as simple and as fun” as building with LEGO blocks. Its “contactless power” technology combines a single power hub and cabling with clips that connect LED lights to the power source quickly and easily without exposing live wires. The approach, says founder and director Marc Ottolini, makes it simple to convert a space to LED lighting without complicated electrical work.

“We don’t do the LEDs (themselves), but we’ve reinvented the backbone,” Ottolini said. “We have created basically a new universe in lighting systems.”

The savings in installation times are considerable, Ottolini said. With Isotera’s system, LEDs can be installed anywhere from 50 to 60 percent more quickly than before. What’s more, lights can be added safely while the power is on, meaning problems with any one fixture can be identified immediately and system overloads are instantly detectable.

Isotera has also extended its approach to emergency lighting: its iEscape modules clip easily onto the system’s power cables for contactless charging of backup batteries.

“It’s a major step in how emergency lighting is done,” Ottolini said.

Up until now, Isotera has worked primarily on retrofitting existing buildings with LEDs, but Ottolini said the system is equally attractive for new-build projects. Many of its projects have come through its partnership with the lighting company Havells-Sylvania. Having worked on projects in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Russia, it is looking to expand elsewhere, including into the US. Because of the ease of installation its technology allows, Ottolini said, Isotera’s system has great potential both in places where labor costs are high as well as in locales where there are skills shortages.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “the system has global appeal.”

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