According to Forbes, Boston-based Philips Color Kinetics and other firms are in a race to create technologies and appliances that do a better job of converting electricity to light, since the passage of the Energy Independence Act in December 2007 ensures the eventual obsolescence of traditional incandescent light bulbs.

Where the standard light bulb lasts approximately 1,000 hours, compact fluorescent bulbs and LEDs last up to 10,000 hours and 50,000 hours, respectively. The major market hurdle right now is price, as LEDs cost as much as 20 times the price of incandescent bulbs, though the Department of Energy anticipates that steady product improvements will bring the cost of LEDs down below that of compact fluorescent bulbs by 2014.

Unlike consumers, large retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Shaw's, are quickly transitioning to LEDs. Philips is capitalizing on LEDs' ability to accommodate different color wavelengths and is in discussions with several luxury-goods retailers to determine how various lighting can highlight diamond- and gold-plated jewelry.