Interoperability is something we take for granted when it comes to Bluetooth® devices – just connect it and forget it. No need to look at a compatibility chart to figure out which Bluetooth enabled speaker will work with which Bluetooth enabled smartphone. Unfortunately, lighting control systems have never been this easy, until now.
The Walled Garden
In the lighting controls world, the topic of interoperability causes plenty of headaches. Many vendors take a walled garden approach, offering propriety controls solutions that provide interoperability only among the devices that operate on their chosen system. While this typically simplifies the implementation, it traps a customer with a single vendor. This also causes future issues when products need to be replaced or a facility expanded or reconfigured, because the original vendor must still be able to service the components. Even those vendors who adopt a common standard will often make small improvements which ultimately lead to interoperability issues when their products are used with other vendors. This has been a common practice that has plagued the lighting controls industry.
The Full-Stack Solution
Now, imagine a world where the user can choose one vendor for a luminaire, a different vendor for sensors, another for switches, and yet another for the lighting control system. With the release of the Bluetooth® mesh network specification, that world is here.
The key to this interoperability is the defined protocol layers; from physical radio to the application layer/profiles, all aspects of the Bluetooth protocols are defined within the specifications. The Bluetooth mesh full-stack solution includes lighting profiles with defined application models. By including the lighting models in the Bluetooth mesh specifications, common lighting requirements are now available out of the box. Adopted model-defined behavior cannot be changed, ensuring interoperability across products from different vendors for the foreseeable future.
Vendors adopting the Bluetooth mesh standard can be confident that their products will properly work with other vendors within a lighting controls installation for years to come. Product replacement, facility expansion or reconfiguration becomes a simple task by empowering an array of compatible products from many vendors. This brings the same level of interoperability to the commercial lighting world that we have grown accustomed to in the Bluetooth consumer world.
A New Chapter
A new chapter of the lighting controls business is commencing. Bluetooth® mesh networking specifications bring multi-vendor interoperability to the lighting world. Manufacturers such as Fulham have embraced Bluetooth mesh, designing clever lighting components that use Bluetooth to communicate in new, unexpected ways. Luminaires built with Fulham’s Bluetooth enabled LED drivers can act as beacons for building navigation and asset tracking, transmit sensor data that can be used for HVAC controls, and even allow a smartphone to control environmental conditions. Using the lighting infrastructure to create a robust mesh network built on trusted Bluetooth technology will pave the way for a platform of wireless building management solutions, with user facing services taking us beyond traditional perceptions of what lighting controls can do.