The New IPv6 Driver by Tridonic
Unlike the smartphones, Lighting is on its path to future intelligence.

Tridonic, amongst other lighting companies, sees lighting in a transition: The rise of lighting LEDs is coinciding with the rise of cost-effectively smart electronics, and the introduction of internet protocol version 6 (IPv6) – IPv6 being the technology that makes the internet-of-things possible.

“A new generation of connectivity allows lighting to support features and services that haven’t previously been within reach, giving lighting designers, architects, service providers and facility managers the toolbox of IoT,” said Karl Jónsson, head of application software at Tridonic. “The only way to become a world-wide accepted [lighting] solution is to base it on open standards and API’s.”

The firm’s IPv6 and 6LoWPAN (wireless IPv6)-based concept has been dubbed net4more.

Eventually, net4more will consist of lighting gear, applications and cloud software.

“With this, Tridonic will enable the customers and end-customers to offer services that go even beyond lighting. As an example, these services could include remote monitoring, space management or indoor navigation,” said the firm. With remote monitoring, companies will be able to identify failure in real-time, receive alerts for repairs, log operating hours, and read dimming level, lux level, temperature.

At the luminaire, net4more gives a choice of three interfaces: Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), Ethernet, or 6LoWPAN-based (wireless) Thread.

Physically, the drivers will look the same as before, but with an additional interface box. “The added module is no wider, it only makes the assembly longer,” Tridonic sales manager Simon Blazey told Electronics Weekly, adding that these interfaces will eventually migrate inside drivers.

While the Ethernet and 6LoWPAN versions will be powered by conventional mains wiring in the ceiling, PoE versions get both data and power through Cat 5 cable. This, and the low voltages involved, means lighting can be installed by people without special mains-handling qualifications. The disadvantage, is that higher currents in thinner conductors leads to increased power waste.

Mains-trained staff will still be required to install supplies for the necessary PoE switches. As an aside, Blazey suspects eight port switches will be the sweet-spot for lighting “probably not more ports, because of the heat”, he said.

If Ethernet becomes standard in ceilings, it could also be used for other data services – tracking people through shops by their phone IP address, for example, suggested Blazey, or providing wireless access points.

Last month, Cree announced a PoE lighting tie-up with networking firm Cisco.

Tridonic is supporting several industry standardisation efforts:

  • Fairhair (named, like Bluetooth, after a Norse king) is an initiative to define an open system-level approach for IoT lighting including communication, data object models and application interfaces – supported by firms in lighting, building automation and IT.
  • OpenAIS is an EU funded initiative for the lighting industry and academia to define an all-IP (internet protocol) open lighting system, that the industry is willing to adopt, which will allow inter-operation between products from different manufacturers.
  • Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the consortium that defines standards for the Internet.

Over the last year, Tridonic has been working on two other systems: connecDIM for light management via the cloud, and ready2mains which allows dimming and configuration over mains wires without resorting to power-hungry RF-based ‘powerline comms’.

ConnecDIM system, has a DALI-to-Ethernet gateway and a cloud service and spans large or small buildings. It provides monitoring at any time from anywhere in the world, and “it also allows employees sitting at their desks to adjust the lighting to suit their own needs via a PC or smartphone app”, said the firm. Each gateway has four DALI lines and can connect to up to 256 DALI devices.

Ready2mains gateways modulate the mains by snipping out tiny blanks near zero-crossing. Up to 400W of ready2mains-enabled lighting loads downstream of the gateway can be controlled simultaneously. Tridonic’s Talexxdriver, Excite and Premium LED drivers have ready2mains, as do Omega LED and Chalice LED drivers from Thorn. Maximum cable length is 250m