The connected LED lighting trend has been upon us for some time, and we have covered it repeatedly. Smart solid-state lighting (SSL) and the Internet of Things (IoT) were omnipresent at the recent Strategies in Light event in Las Vegas and there was even a track dedicated to the topic. Yet looking back at the week, I could see someone who attended the first major SSL tradeshow of 2019 leaving more confused than ever. This is complex stuff.
Don’t misunderstand. Strategies in Light offered great content and compelling exhibits. We will have a feature-length article in our next issue. But I’m writing this first-impression retrospective on a tight deadline after the event. Still, the myriad approaches to connected lighting and the complexity of retrofits relative to new products and new projects remains an issue.
At a given moment, a speaker could make you feel that all was under control. During the Investor Forum, Eric Miller, CEO of Avi-On, advocated for Bluetooth Mesh and asserted that the company had installed a 2200-node system that is operating seamlessly with no gateways or central controller. He said the more mature Zigbee technology has thus far been installed with a maximum of 250 nodes on a single gateway. Bluetooth wins, right? We’ll see. Miller admitted that while the Bluetooth Mesh standard is solidly in place, it could still be several years before that sector realizes full interoperability of products from multiple vendors.
It’s easier than ever to develop a Bluetooth product. Companies showed such support in the exhibits. Silvair can supply the needed stack. As we wrote prior to Strategies in Light, McWong has a line of enabling components and modules for outdoor applications. Newcomer I-Star had a Bluetooth to 0–10V converter that would enable wireless connectivity to legacy drivers.
I think product developers and lighting specifiers have a relatively easy path to connected lighting when working on new products or new buildings. In either case, a technology choice is required. But there are multiple technologies that will work. You may not have the interoperability and flexibility that would be ideal. But reliable connected products and systems can result.
Adding connected capability to an existing product or upgrading an existing installation is more difficult. And the complexity starts with something as simple as the light switch. Do you need one? Our article next issue will cover a debate that took place in a conference session on that very topic.
But there are some neat ideas out there for issues that SSL professionals face. For example, how do you control a color-tunable luminaire in a product or SSL installation retrofit in which the incumbent previously only supported dimming? Assuming the technology at hand is a simple two-LED-channel design that varies CCT, you could just add a second slide-dimmer control. But that’s not ideal.I-Star showed an approach where a single slide dimmer could separately handle dimming and CCT control. Push the “on” button to switch modes, and suddenly you can select your choice of warm to cool with the slider. Push the on button again and you can dim or brighten the output while maintaining constant CCT.
The examples I used are just the tip of the iceberg. I firmly believe we are headed to a successful connected future. But we need more learning opportunities like Strategies in Light both to inform us and sometimes confuse us. We pledge to continue to support that process with our magazine and website.