Long Live the Lighting System

RIP Lighting Control SystemsLighting Control Systems and Luminaires as we know them today – as separate disconnected pieces – are dying. Long live the Lighting System.

When DALI technology became the standard protocol for digital lighting control in the early part of the 21st century, the boundaries between a luminaire and the lighting control system became blurred.

DALI brought control system addressability into the luminaire, so the system control points with their digital addresses were now inside the luminaire itself – usually in the form of an electronic lamp ballast containing DALI electronics and embedded firmware.

The luminaire has been transformed from a standalone device to becoming an integral part of a whole DALI lighting system.

Lighting Control System vs Lighting System

Ever since incandescent lamps became commercially available in the latter part of the 19th century, there has been a need to control artificial electric lighting.

The first manual control wall switch employing “quick-break technology” was invented around the same time as commercially available incandescent lamps, no coincidence I guess!

From this initial requirement for wall mounted switches to turn incandescent globes ‘on’ in the evening and ‘off’ when going to bed, both available light sources and the means of controlling them have improved over the years.

For example, dimmers began to be used to control theatrical stage lighting in the early part of the 20th century and fluorescent lamps became prevalent, particularly in commercial applications, during the 1940’s.

Lighting System Evolution or Revolution?

The next major evolution in controls was when analogue electronic control devices became popular in lighting control during the 1980’s.

Lighting control devices using digital communication started to be used in the 1990’s. This is when building wide lighting control systems became feasible.

Next, DALI was invented and stirred lighting and controls into the same pot.

However, despite this merging of technologies, the luminaire and the lighting controls are still today seen as separate entities. The main reason for this is probably that traditional light sources (incandescent and fluorescent lamps) are not electronic in nature, whereas the DALI control gear (DALI fluorescent ballasts and LED drivers) are.

The luminaire, light source, DALI control gear and control system are generally manufactured separately, usually by completely different manufacturing companies.


Image courtesy: sf.theboard.net

LED Disruptor

No its not a “laser”.

The recent game changer is LED lighting and the industry revolution it has caused. LED lighting uses electronics based technology.

So, for the first time in the evolution of lighting, we now have electronic based light sources, as well as electronic based drivers and control system products.

It is inevitable that these three historically separate products will merge, ultimately into one integrated electronic assembly. The luminaire will be a module that will form part of an integrated building lighting control system, from one manufacturer.

When, not if, this happens, we will finally be designing, installing and using integrated lighting systems; just like the air conditioning industry have been for decades.