Wired vs. Wireless Lighting Controls, commercial building lighting controls market is experiencing a period of rapid transformation. As commercial lighting technology shifts from fluorescent to LED lighting fixtures and now to PoE Lighting, analog lighting controls are also being replaced by more scalable and reliable digital controls that can operate over a wired or wireless infrastructure.
The many choices available to building owners and lighting designers can complicate your selection for the optimal lighting control system. These choices come with trade-offs from both a technical and commercial point of view.
Wired lighting controls have their roots in 0-10 volt analog systems where DC voltage is varied from 0-10 volts across a pair of wires to control the illumination output of the fixture. These systems were simple to maintain and operate, but could be difficult to implement due the large number of wires required. 0-10 volt control paved the way for digital controls such as DALI and DSI that are used widely today for lighting control, but newer lighting systems that are IP-based are gaining interest in the market.
For example, Ethernet communications for lighting control is becoming more common and will likely accelerate, as it provides both data communications and power via Power-Over-Ethernet. An added benefit to PoE-based control is that just a single Category 6 or 6A cable can be run to each lighting fixture rather than multiple cabling systems for power and control.
For many existing lighting installations, providing an overlay control system utilizing a wired infrastructure can prove to not only be cumbersome, but expensive. Cost-effective lighting control solutions based on wireless technology can be considered in these situations.
Zigbee, based on the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless mesh standard, is optimal for control applications due to its resiliency and scalability. The number of control nodes that can be distributed across a lighting installation is virtually limitless.
Bluetooth Mesh is another wireless technology that is gaining interest largely in the residential home automation market, but has the potential to displace Zigbee’s dominance in wireless controls due to its broad market adoption in mobile applications.
Lighting control technology will continue to evolve together with innovations in wireless and PoE infrastructure solutions.