TECHNOLOGY BASICS: What are Networked Lighting Controls?

Technology Overview
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Networked lighting controls establish a control network via dedicated cables or wireless communication protocols (e.g., Bluetooth, ZigBee) between luminaire drivers, sensors, switches/user interfaces (UIs), and typically a central controller. Often, the central controller is capable of connecting to the cloud or building management system (BMS) for additional functionality and integration with other building systems.

The network created by these lighting control products allows individual and group control of connected devices to enable multiple control strategies including area control, dimming, scheduling, occupancy sensing, daylight harvesting, institutional tuning, and automated demand response. Control strategies are mainly focused on increasing energy efficiency by reducing light output or increasing occupant comfort by manipulating experienced conditions.

Network lighting controls are designed as expandable systems, and often require multiple components to enable full functionality within a space. Network lighting control hardware is managed via manufacturer-provided software, typically accessed via a computer or phone that connects to a local or cloud host. Specific devices such as load controllers and sensors are typically not cross-compatible across different manufacturers, but workarounds may exist depending on the specific products.

The most common means for specifying an NLC is directly through a manufacturer, lighting product representatives, or lighting designers. Lighting representatives and lighting designers often work with multiple systems under various major brands. They will be able to provide multiple system options catered to the specified building type, size, and construction along with any user preferences necessary for satisfactory operation.