Digital Lumens opens its LED controls technology to other lighting manufacturers

Digital Lumens will now supply a sensor module to third party lighting manufacturers so that adapted fixtures can be managed by the companies LightRules platform for intelligent, networked lighting systems.

Digital Lumens entered the lighting business as a startup a few years back focused on selling intelligent, networked solid-state lighting (SSL) systems, and now is laying the groundwork for supporting fixtures from other manufacturer with its LightRules management platform. Initially, other lighting manufacturers will add a module to their existing dimmable luminaires than will embed Digital Lumens Digital Light Agent (DLA) technology into the fixtures, and longer term manufacturers will be able to integrate the DLA support directly into their LED drivers.

"Digital Lumens vision is to make every light intelligent," said president and CEO Tom Pincince. The company has long said that intelligent lighting can reduce energy consumption by 90% and this new program for third-parties is aimed at increasing the penetration of intelligent lighting systems.

Today, however, Digital Lumens only offers high-bay SSL luminaires. They have recently expanded their product line significantly and now support big-box-retail and hazardous-location applications. But they don't have products for many applications that are common place in a facility that might buy the high-bay products.

Pincince said that customers are clamoring to buy intelligent lighting for use throughout a facility. He pointed out that a building that is primarily industrial or warehouse in nature that uses the high-bay lighting, also needs office lighting and surface parking lot lighting – neither of which Digital Lumens now sells.

Still, Digital Lumens is taking the approach that one vendor needs to sell the entire system. Pincince said that intelligent lighting is "best sold as a full and capable system." Indeed to date, Digital Lumens has supplied the networked LED luminaires, management platform, and even services to help customers maximize energy savings.

Working with third-party manufactures, Digital Lumens will process down two paths. The company will qualify fixtures from other manufacturers and add them to its own catalog so that the company can continue to offer a complete system. The company will also allow some other lighting manufacturers to sell, install, and commission the LightRules platform and Digital Lumens fixtures as part of the third-party manufacturer's catalog.

At Lightfair next week, Digital Lumens said it will have fixtures from three to four other manufacturers in its exhibit area. The products will be focused on lighting applications that the company currently does not serve. Digital Lumens wouldn't reveal those names now, but Pincince said it will include well-known brands.

Modular upgrade

Initially, Digital Lumens will supply other manufacturers with a module that integrates ambient light and occupancy sensors, a bridge to connect with the wireless mesh network that Digital Lumens embeds in its products, and an output that can control fixtures that support 0-10V dimming. That first step will enable control of third-party products, but not the complete management capability that is in Digital Lumens products such as the ability to monitor power usage or operating temperature on a fixture-by-fixture basis.

Longer term, Digital Lumens will supply reference designs that lighting manufactures can use to integrate full DLA support into fixtures. Pincince also said that the company is developing a simple bi-directional communication interface that will run over Cat-5/6 wiring (Ethernet cables) that will be capable of linking fixtures or sensors to fixtures. One usage scenario might be linking a group of fixtures for control based on a single occupancy/ambient light sensor, whereas Digital Lumens now includes sensors in each fixture.

Given the news, we wondered why the company didn’t take the next logical step and further open its platform so that lighting designers/specifiers or distributors could sell systems with a mix of products from other vendors. Theoretically, lighting could be sold just as computer networking equipment is sold with a mix of interoperable products from different vendors.

"I used to have that opinion and hope," said Pincince who has a background in networking. But after five years in lighting Pincince said, "I've learned that lighting is not the networking business." Pincince, and Digital Lumens, believes that customers will only get fully functional systems and realize optimal savings when one company stands behind the system.

Pincince says the goal is still to make the technology prevalent and he identifies cost as the obstacle and legacy light vendors as part of the problem as they have priced controls high. He said "Controls need to cost pennies per square foot rather than dollars per square foot.

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