Standards are Worthless (Without Interoperability)

Russ Sharer is VP Global Marketing and Business Development at Fulham Inc.

In this guest blog, Russ Sharer discusses the importance of interoperability within the smart lighting control sector.

中文版 (Chinese Version)

Standards on their own have limited merit if there is not an ability to interoperate with multiple vendors of the standard. For example, there are many standard languages in the world, all with their own way of speaking, writing and grammar. But communication only happens when the speakers or writers interoperate, that is, when they can understand and respond to each other. Such is the same with lighting controls.

There are a lot of names for the evolving standards of lighting control – Zigbee, Bluetooth, 802.15.4, Power over Ethernet (PoE), Thread, etc – all of these focused on solving a real problem or set of problems, but most totally unable to interoperate with the other. While options such as wired versus wireless, or control versus power and control can be valuable, unless there is a movement to mix and match them in a building they will not help end users or vendors bring about better control of lighting and energy efficiency.

Imagine if you walked into a coffee shop and had to ask the manufacturer of the WiFi router to know if you could connect your tablet. Or if you had to choose your hotel based on them supporting Samsung smartphones, rather than those from Apple or Huawei. That is what we are asking end users to do today with lighting controls.

For the value of connectivity to appear, and for controls to become integrated into a majority of lighting installations, we need interoperable standards where multiple vendor’s products – LED drivers, switches, luminaires, controls, sensors – can all be placed into the same network and everything works together seamlessly. This is a basic milestone on the road to IoT, and one that end users do not take seriously enough today.

With the exception of DALI, what most lighting control vendors ask today is that the selector trust them to stay in business, continue to migrate the system, and ensure it will keep working in its closed, proprietary way for the rest of the system’s given life. Only DALI is able to mix and match products from multiple vendors, and provide an easy upgrade path if one vendor no longer is your best choice.

Users should be demanding vendors work together. New proposal documents for lighting systems should require multiple vendors to interoperable together. There should be a commitment from the vendors to transition to interoperable standards as they appear, and to actively participate in the multivendor forums and test sites that will arise.

Together, we can create a world where standards are interoperable and meaningful.

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