From where we sit in the electronics world, you can sometimes be lulled into thinking we see all that goes on around us. And then you suddenly get introduced to a whole new area that operates all on its own, with its own expectations, standards, and even language. (“Troffer” is used no less than seven times in the release I’m about to reference. It’s a portmanteau of “trough” and “coffer” – a fixture for fluorescent lights. But I digress.)
The thing is, these once-independent worlds are starting to come together. The one we’re talking today, as you’ve probably guessed, is lighting. Commercial, to be specific. And there are actually two different worlds here: the world of controls, which has largely focused on HVAC and other systems that long ago acquired more than just on/off switches, and the world of lighting.
LEDs have changed lighting forever. They provide opportunities both for savings and for control that prior technologies can’t handle. Combine that with an apparent Title 24 mandate pushing commercial lighting to be both dimmable and accessible by the utilities, and you have now brought controls and lighting together.
Specifically, we’re talking about Daintree, a company with a history in controls, and LG, a company that makes… well, we won’t list them all here, but… amongst their weaponry are such diverse elements as LEDs (and a bunch of other stuff). This not only brings controls into lighting, but also raises the possibility of merging the controls of HVAC and other systems together with lighting for more holistic energy management.
Their recent joint announcement addresses a fundamental challenge with change like this: not only the cost of installing new plant, but, in particular, the cost of retrofitting existing buildings. They claim installation cost savings of 85% and resulting energy efficiency improvements of up to 90%. Nine-oh. That’s… a lot.
And the key to this is simple: wireless. It is possible to install wireless network circuits next to existing light fixtures, but Daintree and LG have gone further than that: LG has integrated the wireless capability into the LED drivers. So a single unit will provide both the power and the networking. Which makes a ton of sense, because ultimately it’s the power that the network is controlling.
You can see, of course, how wireless saves installation money as compared to using a wired network. Not even sure I need to describe what would be needed to run a wired network to all lighting fixtures… With wireless, you install, “pair up” – basically, give all the nodes an identity in the mesh, and you’re off.
They’ve chosen Zigbee for its low cost and low power, saying it was the simplest, most cost-effective solution. Unlike some of the descriptions I’ve heard, they found it “streamlined” – as long as you’re not moving lots of data. Which, of course, they’re not. And it has a meshing capability built-in (we’ll talk about meshing with BlueTooth in a future piece).
These types of solutions will also eventually make their way to residential lighting, although they say that the sale will be different. For commercial, it’s all about ROI. I’m assuming that the ROI story would hold with homes as well, but that may not be the way they appeal to buyers.
You can read more about the joint Daintree-LG solution in their announcement.