Control & Automation

LG’s Clever Tech for Commissioning Smart Lights Melds ZigBee with VLC Light Waves

Introduced at Lightfair 2017 LG Electronics’ new ZigBee Connector plugs into an Android mobile device, discovers smart lights via visible light communication (VLC), and enables on-the-fly programming via LG's Sensor Connect app.

LG’s Clever Tech for Commissioning Smart Lights Melds ZigBee with VLC Light Waves
FCC filing shows LG's ZigBee VLC Connector plugging into an Android mobile device. A built-in photocell is used to receive data from VLC-enabled smart lights, automatically enrolling them into LG's Sensor Connect app for ZigBee-based control.
Credit: FCC documents / CE Pro

Julie Jacobson · May 16, 2017

Commissioning smart light fixtures is about to get a whole lot easier, thanks to LG Electronics’ new VLC ZigBee Connector, a dongle that plugs into an Android mobile device and communicates wirelessly over visible light communication (VLC) – a technology that enables LED bulbs to transmit data via super-fast flickering.

We discovered the new product in an FCC filing published today.

Introduced for the first time at Lightfair 2017 earlier this month, the new product joins LG’s line of Sensor Connect devices, including ZigBee-enabled lights and sensors (occupancy, daylight harvesting). Introduced in 2015, Sensor Connect technology enables these devices to intercommunicate with each other, the Sensor Connect app, and building-wide controllers such as Daintree’s ControlScope.

Today, the Sensor Connect solution targets commercial applications, where lights are plentiful, and commissioning them all can be painful.

The new ZigBee Connector – with its built-in photocell – minimizes that burden by having the fixtures transmit device data over the light waves (VLC).

Because light waves are directional – unlike ZigBee, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other omnidirectional technologies – the photocell, when placed beneath a fixture, will capture data about that specific fixture. At that point, then, the technician can name the device and add it to rooms, scenes or other grouping.

The “old” way of commissioning a system, via ZigBee for instance, would have all of the smart devices populate the Sensor Connect app at once, but the technician would have no idea which ID belonged to which fixture. In a large commercial retrofit job, the task of identifying devices can be extremely taxing.

On the other hand, “Using a photocell module, the VLC device allows users to walk under each fixture, pick up an ID signal and add the product to LG’s Android app,” LG notes in a press release.

From there, users can use the Sensor Connect app to group fixtures, adjust light levels, adjust daylight harvesting, set automated scheduling and more.

In addition to the VLC ZigBee connector, LG is also launched at Lightfair an Analogue Transformer to bring third-party light fixtures into the LG Sensor Connect ecosystem. The device works with “any fixtures with zero to 10 voltage dimming capability, regardless of their manufacturer,” according to the company.

VLC Plans for the Residential Market?

Today, VLC is all the rage in commercial applications, especially in retail stores where the technology is used to track shoppers and communicate with them (using a smart phone’s camera to receive data, and built-in flashlight to transmit).

“Using a photocell module, the VLC device allows users to walk under each fixture, pick up an ID signal and add the product to LG’s Android app.”
  - LG Electronics

For residential applications, the technology doesn’t make sense at this time, notably because residents don’t walk around the house with their cellphones exposed. The LG invention, however, does suggest some interesting opportunities for the residential market.

For starters, there’s the clever commissioning mechanism. Imagine a house full of smart lights that are controlled via ZigBee (for example), but commissioned via VLC.

Don’t dismiss the potential for control, either. Say you have an app like LG’s Sensor Connect on your phone. You’re on the couch. You want to turn off the living room lights.

You point your camera at the overhead fixture, and you get a list of related options: on/off/dim for this particular fixture, as well as a list of groups and scenes that contain this fixture.

Ultimately, the control commands are transmitted (in this case) over ZigBee.

This scenario makes especially good sense for house guests who might not know their way around the home’s electronics.

LG Patents around VLC Commissioning

Lighting Device, Lighting System, and Method for Registering Lighting Device (#20160381766)
Patent application filed June 2014, published Dec. 2016

A lighting device, according to one embodiment, comprises: a control unit for generating an on and off signal on the basis of information on a unique address; and a light source which emits light by the on and off signal generated through the control unit, and which emits visible light including the address information. According to the present embodiment, a user can arrange, under a desired lighting device to be registered, a device having map information on a place at which the lighting device is installed, and can receive a unique address transmitted by the lighting device by using visible light communication (VLC) according to the arranged device, thereby enabling the unique address of the lighting device to be easily confirmed even without the need for dismantling the lighting device installed on the ceiling.

A lighting control apparatus and method thereof (#20160270192)
Patent application filed Jan. 2016, published Sept. 2016

In a general aspect, a lighting control apparatus is provided, the lighting control apparatus comprising: a touch screen configured to display a first graphic user interface in order to provide a VLC (Visible Lighting Communication) service; and a controller configured to perform visible lighting communication with at least one lighting in order to provide the VLC service selected through the first graphic user interface, wherein the VLC service may include a lighting registration service, and wherein the controller may receive unique address information of a first lighting transmitted through the visible lighting communication from the first lighting to be registered, and may register the first lighting using the received unique address information.

NEXT PAGE: VLC ZigBee Connector Press release


  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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  Article Topics


Control & Automation · Automation · Lighting · Whole House Control · News · Products · LG · Lightfair · Patent · VLC · ZigBee · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by Adroit1 on May 21, 2017

As a marketing tool to lock customers into LG as the single manufaturer, it is wonderful. Or you could just use Lutron, and have your houseguests download the free Lutron app and be able to control all the house lights without any extra hardware, through the Lutron bridge.
  The issue with Zigbee is all the signals are proprietary. If you go with LG, you have to stay with LG, the same with all the manufacturers. And then you have to buy separate hardware for each phone with LG. It sounds like a variation on the 3d glasses.
  I am happy to see another manufacturer come out with another platform because that will give me, as an integrator of all platforms, job security. As long as the different companies keep adding platforms, the public is not going to accept “smart” technology en mass. It is too confusing for them. If all manufacturers would agree on a single platform, like Z-wave, (or any agreed on platform), the public would become much more accepting because automation would become easier to understand and apply. Now that security threats are becoming more widespread, and more noticed, the perception of this new technology with the public is fear because of things like the DDNS server attacks last October.  More different platforms in the mix does adds to that, often well founded, fear of hacking. A standardized platform, with really good protection built into all the products, would alleviate many of those fears, and increase the acceptance of the “smart home”, and increase sales dramatically.

Posted by Adroit1 on May 21, 2017

As a marketing tool to lock customers into LG as the single manufaturer, it is wonderful. Or you could just use Lutron, and have your houseguests download the free Lutron app and be able to control all the house lights without any extra hardware, through the Lutron bridge.
  The issue with Zigbee is all the signals are proprietary. If you go with LG, you have to stay with LG, the same with all the manufacturers. And then you have to buy separate hardware for each phone with LG. It sounds like a variation on the 3d glasses.
  I am happy to see another manufacturer come out with another platform because that will give me, as an integrator of all platforms, job security. As long as the different companies keep adding platforms, the public is not going to accept “smart” technology en mass. It is too confusing for them. If all manufacturers would agree on a single platform, like Z-wave, (or any agreed on platform), the public would become much more accepting because automation would become easier to understand and apply. Now that security threats are becoming more widespread, and more noticed, the perception of this new technology with the public is fear because of things like the DDNS server attacks last October.  More different platforms in the mix does adds to that, often well founded, fear of hacking. A standardized platform, with really good protection built into all the products, would alleviate many of those fears, and increase the acceptance of the “smart home”, and increase sales dramatically.