This post was written by Keith Dawson for UBM Tech’s community Web site All LED Lighting, sponsored by Philips Lumileds. It is archived here because the All LED Lighting site has gone dark. This material is Copyright 2013-2015 by UBM Americas.


The Case for Standards-Based Lighting Controls

The electronics firm LG is entering the commercial lighting market with ZigBee-equipped LED fixtures in partnership with Daintree, the standards-based control company.

The two companies announced that LG will build ZigBee (IEEE 802.15.4) controllers into the drivers in its newly introduced commercial LED-based lighting solutions, which will be able to speak out of the box to Daintree's ControlScope management platform.

Recent weeks have seen announcements of commercial lighting control systems from Cree and Philips. But these systems, like most others in the lighting control and building automation spaces, run on proprietary protocols. Some control protocols advanced by industry players may start on the base of a standard such as 802.15.4, but then they layer custom extensions on top of it -- the strategy that Microsoft famously termed "embrace, extend, extinguish."

The power of standards
In theory, standard protocols free customers from the threat of vendor lockin and from concerns about a supplier going out of business -- that is, assuming a sufficient number of vendors offering products based on the standards and copious interoperability testing. pointed out the unusualness of this standards-based foray into control for commercial lighting. "ZigBee is one of several low-power wireless mesh networking standards vying for dominance in the commercial building space. But in the almost completely proprietary smart lighting landscape, it's an outlier."

ZigBee would get a boost if it were endorsed by the Connected Lighting Alliance for commercial networking, as it has been for residential work. Our coverage last December pointed out a few reasons why this outcome seems not unlikely.

Embedded controls are cheaper
LG and Daintree predict that building them in at the factory will save customers 85% over what they would pay for a system with outboard retrofit controls. Much of that savings will come in the installation, even though, in these early days, LG is requiring the use of Daintree-certified installers (as LEDs Magazine pointed out). The companies are gambling that embedded controls will be so common -- so near universal -- in new commercial LED lighting that customers will routinely accept their additional cost.

New kid on the block
LG is offering troffers, retrofit downlamps, MR16s, and a flat lighting technology called F.I.L.M. (There's also a retrofit kit to replace fluorescent tubes.) All are available with ZigBee in the driver, integrated by Daintree and manufactured by LG.

Daintree has sold outboard control modules for LED retrofits in the past -- that was the technology used in the Massachusetts manufacturing retrofit we wrote about a year back. And Daintree had deals a couple of years ago to supply modules for Philips and Cree commercial solutions. But Daintree didn't assume it would be in the module business forever. Integrated ZigBee was always the aiming point, as demonstrated by the company's work with the chipset vendor Marvell last year. The resulting ZigBee on a chip is incorporated into lighting products from Samsung and Orama. Daintree was adding value via its ControlScope software.

— Keith Dawson Circle me on Google+ Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn page, Editor-in-Chief, All LED Lighting

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