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.
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).
- 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
Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at email@example.com
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