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.

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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

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PRESS RELEASE

LG Electronics Debuts New Wireless Control Technologies for LED Lighting

LG’s Visible Light Communication (VLC) commissioning solution, introduced at Lightfair 2017, transmits data between ZigBee fixtures and control devices using the visible rays emitted by LED lights

May 9, 2017 – LG Electronics USA is expanding its LED lighting control portfolio featuring ZigBee integrated wireless technology with new advanced features. Demonstrated for the first time this week at the LIGHTFAIR International 2017 lighting industry trade show, these new technologies offer a complete lighting control package with enhanced commissioning processes and more advanced programming capabilities.

Leading the new 2017 introductions is LG’s Visible Light Communication (VLC) commissioning solution, a cutting-edge communication technology that can transmit data between fixtures and control devices using the visible rays emitted by LED lights, simplifying and accelerating the commissioning process.

With LG’s VLC solution, retrofit installers can easily streamline the often-laborious commissioning process by easily identifying, grouping and controlling products through LG’s intuitive Android mobile application.

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. From there, users can group fixtures, adjust light levels, adjust daylight harvesting, set automated scheduling and much more for cohesive control capabilities throughout an entire facility.


READ THE MAIN STORY: LG's Clever Tech for Commissioning Smart Lights Melds ZigBee with VLC Light 


Creating additional efficiencies in the commissioning process, LG’s Pre-Commissioning Station allows retrofit installers to quickly and conveniently connect all LG ZigBee-enabled lighting fixtures, sensors, wireless communication modules and switches using the LG app. Using the app, installers can quickly and easily pair fixtures and control lighting group settings, shortening the commissioning process time and reducing errors in installation.

LG is also introducing a Zigbee to Analogue Transformer that will help increase flexibility and control across all fixtures in a facility. The Zigbee to Analogue Transformer allows retrofit installers to control any fixtures with zero to 10 voltage dimming capability, regardless of their manufacturer, and bring non-LG products in to the LG network so they can be programmed and controlled through one shared platform.

Rounding out the new enhancements to its wireless control technologies package, LG is also introducing an AC Wired Scheduling Switch as a complement to its current battery-operated and wireless scheduling switch options. With the AC Wired Switch, retrofit installers can easily replace new or existing switches, as it fits in to a standard switchbox.

The AC Wired Switch also offers full wireless control using ZigBee technology to easily configure and control fixtures, such as turning a group of fixtures on and off at specific intervals, offering a broader range of control and convenience in managing energy usage with no extra wiring and very few components.

“The new enhancements to our wireless control platform demonstrate LG’s strong commitment to providing total wireless connectivity and control capabilities that will allow customers to manage their LED lighting products within one comprehensive ecosystem,” said Sean Lafferty, head of LG’s U.S. LED lighting business. “In the coming months, we look forward to bringing to market these advanced LED solutions that we believe will help our customers achieve seamless and complete control throughout their facilities for more efficient and convenient installation and management.” 

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
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Julie Jacobson:

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

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