There is a lot happening in connected lighting suddenly and it seems to be driven by the realization that a fragmented connectivity landscape is simply not the path to a profitable future for solid-state lighting (SSL) manufacturers selling networked lighting controls. The DALI Alliance is again looking to expand the type of networks over which the DALI protocol can run with the launch of the DALI+ initiative. Meanwhile, the Zigbee Alliance has become the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) and the CHIP project is now called Matter as the Zigbee group moves toward a network-agnostic future.
The DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface) Alliance, or what was previously known as the DiiA (Digital Illumination Interface Alliance), is taking more steps to extend the reach of the DALI protocol through the DALI+ program. Just weeks ago, the standards organization announced completion of anticipated gateway specifications to bridge DALI networks with Bluetooth mesh or Zigbee. Now DALI will begin the process of developing specifications for DALI protocols to flow natively over other wired and wireless networks.
The first target is DALI over the Thread operating system and network stack and Internet Protocol (IP) networks such as the wireless 6LoWPAN (IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Network) network. The 6LoWPAN network stack is based on the same IEEE802.15.4 wireless mesh physical layer (PHY) that often underlies Zigbee.
The subtle difference between the DALI+ concept and gateways are in the details of the implementation. In, say, a Bluetooth to DALI gateway, Bluetooth protocols would be translated to DALI protocols in the gateway. In a DALI+ implementation, DALI protocols will flow seamlessly end to end. DALI doesn’t even refer to the underlying wired or wireless communication platform as a network but rather as a wireless carrier, taking terminology from the mobile cellular world.
“Following the publication of our Wireless to DALI Gateway specifications last month, the introduction of DALI+ ushers in a new era of seamless, industry-standardized lighting control,” said Paul Drosihn, general manager of the DALI Alliance. “DALI+ extends choice, flexibility, and creative freedom for lighting designers and specifiers by supporting the development of wired, wireless, and IP-based systems, using DALI throughout.”
Zigbee’s revised mission
Moving to the Zigbee Alliance, the organization is enormous and, two decades into development, well entrenched with many automated systems ranging from factories to connected lighting to the home. But the network and transport layers of Zigbee have fallen from favor as many organizations move to IP-based networks where nodes are directly addressable via the Internet. Moreover, Zigbee has long separated its upper layers that include application-specific commands and protocols, for example, focused on lighting, HVAC, or other systems.
Presumably, the CSA moniker will more accurately reflect the openness and inclusiveness of the evolving Zigbee world. The organization has also rebranded the Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP) initiative as Matter. “This year is historic for the alliance as our growth and efforts flourish with the demand for smart home and building connectivity,” said Tobin Richardson, president and CEO of the CSA. “It’s the perfect time to both unveil our new brand, positioning the alliance as the home for collaboration and development of IoT standards with our members, and launch these trusted marks recognizable by the market we collectively serve.”
Matter will serve as an interoperability mark for consumers. Any connected device (also referred to as an object or node) that carries a Matter certification will be guaranteed to work in an interoperable manner on top of CSA-approved IP networks and protocols.
While neither the DALI nor the CSA announcements directly address the fragmented connected-lighting landscape, both provide paths forward for greater interoperability and a move to a plug-and-play future. Moreover, both will support the concept of combination wired and wireless network installations that are inevitable in retrofit scenarios.
LEDs Magazine chief editor MAURY WRIGHT is an electronics engineer turned technology journalist, who has focused specifically on the LED & Lighting industry for the past decade.
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