When someone mentions control in terms of lighting, chances are the listener thinks of lighting controls and the dizzying array of possibilities, both in terms of available technologies and in terms of suppliers. But there’s another perspective. This one is typically from the customer or design professional who views the industry instability with concern when they’re evaluating control solutions. From the customer’s perspective, how can they truly be in control of their lighting and IoT interfaces? From the design professional’s perspective, how can they embrace new technologies with all the capabilities they offer without exposing themselves to risks down the line?
The lighting and lighting controls industry offers a rapidly changing landscape. With dozens, possibly hundreds, of young companies jockeying for market share, the industry has also experienced its share of failures. With the potential risk of established companies closing doors with little warning, stranding customers with proprietary control solutions deployed that no longer have long-term support or expansion capabilities, and the risk of other companies shuttering control divisions, with similar results, what kind of risk protections do interoperable solutions offer these customers and designers? Is there still a place for proprietary solutions?
Let’s look at the different levels of interoperability and evaluate the risks and rewards.
Bluetooth Mesh Networking
Bluetooth® mesh enables the creation of large-scale device networks and is ideally suited for control, monitoring, and automation systems where hundreds, or thousands of devices need to communicate with one another.
Levels of Interoperability
Proprietary solutions are systems that utilize the hardware and software from a single provider. These can be excellent choices when the provider is a stable industry partner with a long history and good technical support. Risks remain, however, if the customer wishes to expand a system at some point in the future in a way that was perhaps unanticipated initially. For instance, a business campus deployed a proprietary control network across its indoor spaces in multiple buildings a few years ago and now would like to expand its lighting control network to its outdoor spaces, including walkways, parking lots, and roadways. The proprietary system does not offer outdoor control solutions. This customer now has to decide whether to deploy a second, unintegrated control network for its outdoor spaces or abandon the indoor control system and replace it with an integrated indoor/outdoor networked solution.
Then there are semi-proprietary solutions, such as ones that utilize communication protocols like Bluetooth® Low Energy, to underpin their wireless control technology. These providers often have an ecosystem of partners with interoperability within that ecosystem. A designer can select components from any provider within the ecosystem when designing a control network and be certain that the components will work together according to the design intent of the project. These solutions offer customers and designers more assurances that the ecosystem providers will be available long-term for technical support or system expansion.
Finally, there is the most robust level of interoperability, provided by Bluetooth® mesh. This Bluetooth networked lighting control, supported by the Bluetooth mesh specification, ensures that any manufacturer designing products to that standard will be interoperable with each other. And because the standard is developed by a global community of more than 38,000 companies, both customers and designers can be confident of the longevity and breadth of the technology.
Since the first Bluetooth mesh specification was published in 2017, thousands of devices have been introduced to the marketplace by nearly 200 different companies. According to a recently published report by ABI Research, Bluetooth network lighting control devices are expected to reach 36 million annual shipments by 2027, growing to over 112 million annual shipments by 2030. McWong has deployed more than 20 million square feet of installed Bluetooth networked lighting control solutions in a wide range of both indoor and outdoor applications.
Bluetooth® technology continues to expand the outer limits of interoperability. In collaboration with the DALI Alliance, they announced a joint effort to specify a standardized gateway for D4i certified intelligent luminaires in May 2020 that was published a year later by the DALI Alliance. Customers and designers can move forward with confidence in the breadth and depth of interoperable solutions and finally take full control of their lighting infrastructure.
Networked Lighting Control
Bluetooth® networked lighting control systems are deployed in offices, retail, healthcare, factories, and other commercial facilities to deliver a combination of energy savings, an enhanced occupant experience, and more efficient building operations.
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