The Lightbulb Moment Behind an Industry-Leading LED

Lumenpulse’s SVP of engineering and chief technology officer Greg Campbell illuminates the smarts behind its LED smart bulbs

About 10 years ago, Greg Campbell had an “aha” moment: he wanted to work on controls.

At the time, Campbell was working for BNS Solutions, a small three-person company in Boston that specialized in designing embedded systems for a variety of industries. This allowed him to understand the positive impact controls and embedded microprocessors can have on industries that have never had them before. He was hooked and wanted more.

“I ended up getting a job at Color Kinetics, which has really been the pioneer for LED lighting worldwide,” he says. “They have a lot of the patents and IP based around control of LEDs and using them to control architectural lighting applications. I worked there three years through its sale to Philips.”

At Color Kinetics, Campbell started as the embedded systems engineer, and then moved on to become the firmware team lead. Within a few short years, he had graduated to the electrical engineering manager position, leading the company’s electronics and firmware development with a team of 15 people.

But Campbell decided the big company feel was not really best suited for his skillset, and he went back to the small consulting company that he had worked for prior to Color Kinetics. It was there that he began consulting for Lumenpulse.

At the time, Lumenpulse was in the very early stages of its development. Campbell had actually met Francois-Xavier Souvay, Lumenpulse’s founder and CEO, and Yvan Hamel, the company’s chief product officer, a year earlier, when Color Kinetics developed the electronics for a custom project that Lumenpulse was working on.

“I was consulting for them in 2010, and one thing led to another and we decided to move forward with a full product development effort, which basically led to the start of the commercialization of a lot of the products that Lumenpulse sells and distributes today,” Campbell says.

Now six years later, Campbell serves as senior vice president of engineering and chief technology officer for Lumenpulse.

On the Job

In his roles, Campbell is in charge of the technology vision for the company. He also manages the IP portfolio and the engineering team, comprised of 12 people in Boston, a couple of people in the company’s Montréal headquarters, and five people in Québec City.

“One of the big things that is happening in lighting is that there’s this huge transition from traditional sources, whether it’s fluorescent or metal-halide or incandescent, to LED,” Campbell says. “In the residential space it’s not quite there yet, but in the commercial space it’s already mainstream. My job is to understand the trends and needs of the market and be able to set a vision for how we can enable that technology in our systems and applications. It’s basically making sure that we’re either always innovating and breaking new ground or continuously refining and developing our technologies.”

 

LUMENPULSE TOUCHES DOWN

Photos by Ed White
Photos by Ed White

The BC Place Stadium project in Vancouver is considered the project that put Lumenpulse on the map.

“There were two main applications or problems the lighting designer wanted to solve: they wanted the lighting system to be linear in nature, so that it would go all the way around the stadium and have this translucent-like material that you could be able to light—letting people see programmed light sequences from inside and outside the stadium. Apart from being able to color brand the building itself, the idea was to give them the ability to create specific light shows, say to celebrate a touchdown, for example,” Campbell says.

To accomplish this, BC Place opted for Lumenpulse’s Lumenfacade fixtures, which are controllable down to one-foot increments.

“Our Lumenfacade fixtures are color changing, so you could change them to any color you wanted. Our distribution of optics also did the best job of putting light exactly where they wanted it. Plus, they’re very easily controllable,” Campbell says.

Lighting the roof proved to be an even bigger challenge. The stadium’s intention was to have different colors on different sections of the roof—the outer rim and the center—which could be easily programmed and controlled.

“In order to do that, we actually developed a product—it’s now our Lumenbeam LBX—which not only has a lot of candlepower to be able to be mounted on each one of those spokes on the outside of the stadium but it can also shoot the light very, very efficiently all the way into the middle. So there are fixtures lined up on every one of those spokes facing inward towards the roof. The key here, though, is that the fixture itself has two separate optics inside it, which are individually controllable. This gives them the light coverage the stadium wanted, but with less fixtures, and it allows them to make changes to the lighting scheme, as they see fit.”

A Lighting Giant

From its heady early days, Lumenpulse is now a leading specification-grade LED-lighting-solutions provider. The company designs, develops, manufactures, and sells high-performance and sustainable specification-grade LED-lighting products for commercial, institutional, and urban environments.

Campbell believes the company’s place in the industry is a result of its ability to combine strong industrial design with embedded electronics—all under one roof.

“We have a lot of industry experience and expertise, and we really consider ourselves to be the perfect mix of those two realms. That combination is really what we focus on, and it drives our innovation,” Campbell says. “My responsibility is to help the company grow by really understanding the challenges of our clients and the lighting vision that they’re trying to bring to life. This is necessary because our customer base is not Home Depot, it’s not an electrical contractor, and it’s not your standard lighting sales channel that you’re going to see every day in the residential and commercial side of things. We really cater strictly towards lighting designers and architects.”

Ground-Breaking Products

One of Lumenpulse’s unique selling points is its focus on sustainability. Campbell explains that since it’s providing energy-efficient lighting, it also wants its systems, products, and fixtures to be as sustainable as possible.

“Since the beginning, all of our products have been designed in a way that we call ‘dual chamber,’ meaning there’s always two separate compartments in our fixtures: one for the LED components and the other for the power supply,” Campbell says. “The reasoning behind this is to really make sure we maintain a sustainable approach. In a fixture, both the LED compartment, which produces the actual light, and the power supply, which powers the electronics, generate heat. Separating them makes a lot of sense from a thermal standpoint, as it ensures they run much cooler, and the cooler they run, the longer they last. Simply put, this means that our LEDs are going to last a long time.”

To further guarantee the long lifetime of its luminaires, Lumenpulse recently developed a technology called Lumendrive, a proprietary ASIC-chip technology that powers LEDs directly from the AC mains, replacing traditional embedded power supply in fixtures—long regarded as the weak link with regard to lifetimes of LED lighting products.   

“Instead of this bulky power supply being embedded on the back of the LED boards, which will never last as long as the LEDs, we were able to develop a very high-performing, high-volume, cost-effective product that powers the fixture directly while still guaranteeing a small form-factor,” Campbell says. “By removing the power supply from the equation, the true lifetime of the product is now based on the actual lifetime of our LED board, and not on a third-party component.”

“We have the benefit of being purely LED, and not one of the traditional companies that has a lot of baggage and a lot of history with traditional technologies.”

Going Public

Campbell characterizes the lighting industry as “a very hot and sexy industry right now—with lots of innovation.”

“There’s a lot of buzz about young, fast-growing LED-lighting companies and we have the benefit of being purely LED, and not one of the traditional companies that has a lot of baggage and a lot of history with traditional technologies,” he says. “We wake up every day and we develop LED fixtures and systems, and we’ve had a lot of growth and success thus far, which has seen us getting more and more attention in the last few years.”

Founded by Mr. Souvay without venture capital investment, when the company first flirted with profitability, a question was raised: could Lumenpulse go public? Management did not want to be acquired by a larger firm, solely to become a piece in another company’s puzzle. In April of 2014, Lumenpulse shares were listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

“We wanted to be that company that started to add pieces to our own puzzle, and so that’s really what led to the IPO. It was a great time for us. It was very exciting,” Campbell says. “My big responsibility in the IPO was the due diligence associated with the IP. I was also responsible for communicating the vision and value of the technology, in an efficient manner that was also as easy to understand as possible. This last point has become very important now that we’re a public company, and it’s a constant challenge trying to communicate the importance of certain technologies or designs to investors that may not have that background.”