Daintree announces lighting-control platform and first partnership

Sept. 15, 2010
Daintree Networks launches the ControlScope lighting control platform for SSL and other energy-efficient lighting options and partners with Easylite.

Daintree has added to its wireless-network-centric technology platform for energy-saving lighting installations, including LED-based solid-state lighting (SSL). The new ControlScope software platform can control installations that scale from a small office to an entire enterprise and resides on the Wireless Area Controller (WAC) that the company demonstrated at Lightfair. The company also announced a partnership with Easylite – a company focused on adaptive lighting control products.

Daintree's business model is entirely centered on Zigbee wireless networks being the answer to the problem of retrofitting buildings with lighting control systems. No one questions the fact that lighting control systems can save money. But as Daintree CEO Danny Yu points out, "There's a reason why lighting controls only have 7% penetration within commercial buildings because cost, complexity and technology issues have held it back."

A wireless technology such as Zigbee can enable a lighting control system without requiring new wiring to connect with fixtures, switches, sensors, and other devices. The wireless aspect is especially critical in retrofit installations and that's where the bulk of the opportunity for lighting-control systems lies according to Yu. Yu notes that everyone from government regulatory agencies to utilities to environmental groups are increasingly interested in lighting controls because lighting typically accounts for 40% of the electricity used by businesses.

An interoperable ecosystem

Daintree is taking a different approach relative to other companies that have targeted adaptive controls. For example, Digital Lumens sells a turnkey system including the network, management software, and luminaires. Daintree, conversely, is attempting to help build a control ecosystem around interoperable standards-based technology.

The Daintree WAC resembles a Wi-Fi access point and one of the WACs would typically support an entire floor of an office building. The WAC links to the lighting devices via Zigbee. It links to a PC or an enterprise network via Ethernet.

For the first time the company is detailing the ControlScope software that resides on the WAC. A facility manager would access the ControlScope user interface via a standard web browser. Moreover, Daintree has also announced an automated-commissioning feature that simplifies the configuration of a lighting-control system.

While Daintree's business is ultimately focused on selling WACs and the ControlScope software, its strategy must include promoting both lighting controls generally and the full adoption of Zigbee standards specifically. Yu points out that there are both network and control aspects to Zigbee. He advises lighting companies to "Use Zigbee for both standard networking and standard lighting messaging."

Yu's point is that the Zigbee Alliance has developed standards specifically for lighting control. But he claims some companies in the control business only use the Zigbee networking protocol while relying on proprietary control messages – resulting in products that won't interoperate with those from other manufacturers. Daintree's WAC will support any product – switch, fixture, ballast, LED power supply, sensor, or other device – that's designed around the Zigbee lighting standard.

Of course Zigbee has been around for the better part of a decade, and has never succeeded to the degree that many expected. Indeed Daintree got its start as a general player in the Zigbee space and offered services such as certification of standards compliance for Zigbee-based products before refocusing on lighting.

Yu points out, however, that Zigbee is starting to gain serious traction with utilities. Indeed many US utilities, and others globally, are deploying Zigbee-based electrical meters for smart-grid applications such as demand response systems and automatic meter reading. And ultimately Yu sees Zigbee-based lighting controls as a perfect match for the smart grid. Yu said, "We feel that Zigbee is ready for primetime, and that's what we're focused on."

The Easylite partnership has resulted in Easylite adding Zigbee support to some of its lighting products such as ballasts. Moreover the partners announced the first installation of a Daintree system in a Colorado warehouse. But they have not provided details of the installed system at this time.