Starfield Ceiling Inventor Looks Toward CEDIA with New Patent
This iSky installation, designed by SmartHomes Chattanooga (Tennessee), showcases a starfield ceiling and uRay lighting borders.
Back in 2007, Chicago-based iSky expanded from commercial installations into the CEDIA channel with its unique star engine, acoustical panel, and cove lighting designs. Though the company has continued to innovate with fiber optic and LED technology, as well as acoustical treatments, it has maintained a relatively low profile until the recent news that it had been granted a U.S. patent for its starfield ceiling. RS contacted the product’s inventor and iSky CEO Jeff Graham to learn more about this achievement and other updates about his products.
Since entering the resi market a few years back, what has the company been focusing on the most?
We have been building our dealer network and educating dealers on the benefits of iSky in order to help them sell iSky along with our unique uRay LED Lighting. We have found that by having detailed specifications, dealers have a better understanding of the product and have more faith in what they are selling.
Jeff Graham is iSky’s CEO and inventor of the company’s recently patented starfield product design.
Starfield ceilings have been around for a while. What is different about iSky?
There are a few things: One, iSky does everything we can in the factory except install the panels. iSky panels are an out-of-the-box, plug-and-play solution for installing a star ceiling on a finished drywall where there is no access from above. Secondly, standard sizes make them easy to estimate, order, and install. One of iSky’s theories was that you don’t have to have your star ceiling go from wall to wall. When you install a star ceiling that is wall to wall, you end up having custom-size panels, dealing with crooked walls, and cutting panels. So, we developed the “Light Shelf” on the back side of our Surface Mount panels. This allows for a field of stars, using standard-size panels, surrounded by the signature glow of uRay LED Lighting. Owners love this lighting effect; it adds depth and drama to the star ceiling experience, and dealers love it because they are not having to custom-size and cut panels, which makes for a much quicker installation, saving time and money.
Please explain more about iSky’s recent patent.
Sitting under a star ceiling in a dark room and watching a movie is really cool when you have a gentle twinkle effect. However, too many star ceilings are bright and flashy and stars blink on/off. All of that is cool when you first walk into a theater, but to sit under it watching a movie for two hours is really distracting. Therefore, we engineered an all-digital “Star Engine” that takes advantage of a cool white LED passing light through a liquid crystal display. The display is programmed for almost an infinite amount of subtle random twinkle effects, which then pass through fiber optic strands that are routed in a particular way in an acoustical ceiling panel. This creates an aesthetically pleasing effect, resembling stars.
What are the biggest obstacles in marketing a product like yours? Are you selling more to the dealer or the consumer?
We sell through an authorized dealer network in North America and distributors in other parts of the world. Many dealers have seen us at CEDIA, and this is where they are able to see the many benefits of iSky, because seeing is believing. Our most successful dealers are ones with a showroom display because their customers walk in, see it, and want it. Otherwise, people are looking at pictures of installations that are static. So the biggest obstacle is getting the product out in front of people.
iSky states that its star field ceiling is actually three products in one. What are the other two?
Well you have 1) The star ceiling experience, 2) Built into an acoustic panel (absorber or diffuser) and 3) A lighting effect with the “Light Shelf,” and actually, now 4) LED Down Lights can be added.
What will you be showing at CEDIA?
We are really excited about CEDIA this year! We are rolling out new, easier to use products that are more cost effective. These products include a new ECO star panel for the true budget-minded application. New LED Down Lights use the U.S. manufacturer Cree’s LEDs. Also, a “Lego-esque” uRay LINK LED system is new for color changing RGB. Larger power supplies have DMX capabilities built in for RGB color changing and readiness for the next LED advancement, RGBW, red, green, blue, and soon, with white for the best white ever along with softer, more muted colors. Dealers also will be seeing quick connects for super simple splicing of uRay Tape, cut, quick connect, done, no more soldering.