20 years of LED innovation

Philips has always been and still is at the forefront of LED lighting development. For over 20 years we have made significant investments in research and development of LED lighting technology, building up one of the most comprehensive portfolios of LED lighting system and control IP.


Since the mid-nineties the market for LED based lighting products has grown and matured. What was a breakthrough innovation ten or more years ago may seem obvious now. But at the time all these innovations were developed to address specific, difficult challenges.


For example, take the dual optics technique, which was developed to enable the use of LEDs for illuminating roadways. The technique (using high lumen, efficient LEDs and multiple lenses to focus the light) was patented in 1997. At this time, the average conventional LED had an output of just 0.1 to 0.2 lumens. For reference, a candle has an output of approximately 12 lumens, so getting sufficient light from LEDs and directing it where needed for road lighting application was a major challenge. While today’s LEDs are much more powerful, the dual optics technique is still widely used in applications including spotlights, downlights, wall washing, and floodlights as well as the road lighting for which it was initially developed.

As an another example, in 1997, Philips Color Kinetics introduced a color-changing LED entertainment light that used multiple red, green, and blue LEDs to enable a luminaire to produce precise, color-coordinated effects.  This was especially useful because it allowed the luminaire to be networked and digitally controlled, for example, by a theatre lighting director or event DJ.  The prevailing technology for creating multi-color effects before LED lighting was to apply a colored “gels” to a high-power light source or to use a color filter to change the appearance of the light from a traditional light source.  With multi-color LED lights, in principle, a luminaire can generate up to 16.7 million different hues of light.


And these are just two examples of the impact that 20 years of Philips R&D has had on LED lighting technology. Indeed, our portfolio of LED lighting system and control IP has enabled the development of many LED-based lighting products from retrofit bulbs to smart city lighting solutions. The best part? With an EnabLED license, you gain access to over 200 Philips Lighting inventions from basic LED controls to system-level technologies to build into your products under a single license.