Boston’s LED Cluster: Lighting Up Everything From Projectors to the Pru

4/20/10Follow @xconomy

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brighter, says Jim Anderson, Philips Color Kinetics’ director of strategic marketing and innovation.

The company has a wide variety of technologies. Even though it targets bigger, landmark-style buildings, the reasons for implementing it differs vastly from site to site. Boston’s Old North Church installment is much more built around efficiency and practicality than flashiness. The church’s older incandescent bulbs burned out quickly and were so hot they peeled the paint inside the building, Anderson says. Replacing them with Color Kinetics’ LED technology significantly reduced the maintenance burden on the building, he says.

In sites such as the Prudential Tower and TD Banknorth Garden, Color Kinetics’ technology is all about aesthetic and branding. The Pru unleashed the company’s LED floodlight system in December, which allows it to change the colored ring that surrounds the top of its building with a simple click, rather than swapping gels or filters like other technologies would require, Anderson says. “It’s about creating a new skyline,” he says.

—LumenZ is another Boston startup that’s out to tackle the color problems in the LED lighting space. The stealthy operation is working on technologies that use zinc oxide, the main component of sunscreen, to convert the harsh bluish light from LEDs into the more pleasing yellow amber light seen in traditional but less efficient bulbs. LumenZ started two years ago and is running out of Boston University’s Photonics Center, with $8 million in backing from General Catalyst Partners, Khosla Ventures, and New Venture Partners.

The company is still in the research and development phase, and is working on putting together technology that will “make a meaningful product for the market,” says LumenZ founder and chief technical officer Bunmi Adekore. He says his company is out to disprove the skepticism on functionality of zinc oxide in the LED space.

Challenges in color, efficiency, and affordability have precluded the use of LEDs in many residential settings, Adekore days. People are reluctant to place traditional LEDs in their homes because of the harsh color, but LEDs in more palatable colors are often expensive or inefficient in their energy output. “The idea is to create and do those three things successfully and simultaneously,” Adekore says.

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