While there are rigorous debates about the merits of HCL system, namely its impact on circadian rhythm or biometrics such as Circadian Stimulus (RPI/LRC method) and Melanopic Lux (Well Buildings Standard), it is evident that the “quality of light” produced by HCL system has a strong correlation with the perception of well-being of the occupants. Specifically, when occupants like the color of light in a space, they will feel better about working or living in it. This may produce a positive effective on the occupants’ well-being and productivity. While this correlation can be subjective, the enhancement in user experience is a common goal lighting designers and building owners strive to achieve. In fact, according to LEDs Magazine, HCL is the next giant step in evolution of lighting as shown in the diagram.
Growing popularity of wireless control
It’s easy not to think twice about the simple act of turning on/off the light switch or dimming up/down the light. However, a lot of things happen behind the switch wall plate, given the advancements in lighting control technologies.
Currently there are two types of lighting control method for any commercial or residential applications—wired and wireless. For the most part, wired lighting control uses copper wire to connect the switch and the light fixture. This method has been around since Thomas Edison invented the first light bulb, and it remains the most common method of lighting control. Traditionally, 0-10V is the default low-cost lighting control solution. For some of the modern buildings, however, lighting control via Power over Ethernet (PoE) is gaining attraction. This technology uses the Local Area Network (LAN) switching infrastructure to provide power over a copper Ethernet cable to a wide variety of devices such as desk phones, security cameras, and thermostats. Today even light fixtures can be powered and controlled as part of the PoE fabric that is the wired backbone of a modern smart building. In addition, there are also the Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI), and Digital Multiplex (DMX)/Remote Device Management (RDM) systems. To explain each of them is beyond the scope of this article. What you need to know is that all of them are used to control lighting for the building automation application.
At the same time, there is an explosion of wireless lighting control solutions. For indoor lighting applications, Zigbee (an IEEE 802.15.4 standard for a personal area network) is the front runner. It is a mature technology with worldwide recognition and adoption. Bluetooth Low Energy (IEEE 802.15.1 standard) is relatively new wireless control technology. It’s attracting attention due to the recent introduction of a mesh networking standard by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). Both wireless technologies are receiving strong interest due to their ease of implementation, large (and growing) ecosystems, and cost advantages. They will play a key role in the future of connected lighting systems because both can be integrated with a building’s centralized management or automation system.
Wireless control will enhance the appeal of HCL system
If you ask any lighting designer who has designed an HCL system for their clients, the majority will tell you that wired control is what they have used. Such control solution can either be analog (i.e. separate 0-10V control devices for color tuning and dimming) or digital. In the latter case, the two predominant options are PoE or DALI systems. Both have some inherent disadvantages:
Analog wired control system
- Lack of precision in the control of light output and CCT
- Labor cost for wiring the control system
- Separate control devices for light output and CCT
Digital wired control system
- Labor cost for wiring the control system
- Requires expertise for system commissioning
As appealing as the HCL systems may be to many, their high upfront costs typically has them “value-engineered” out of most retrofit or new-installation projects.
On the other hand, a wireless control system, with its ease of use and cost advantages, will make the HCL system more appealing and affordable. The combination of wireless lighting control and CCT tuning will greatly enhance the user experience of the occupants within the buildings. This will lead to an “inflection point” that further accelerates the adoption of HCL, in a similar way to how the touch-screen interface technology has contributed to the mass adoption of smartphones.
Furthermore, if you combine the tangible and intangible impact of the HCL system with the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of a wireless control system, there are many unique benefits for the end-customers. For commercial building owners, they can offer a more appealing work environment to attract new tenants or retain existing ones. For retailers and merchants, they can enhance the shopping experience for their customers with more pleasant lighting during different store hours. For school administrators, they can have optimal learning environments for their pupils.
In addition to the end customers, HCL system can also bring positive impacts to the entire value-chain of the lighting industry. For instance, the HCL luminaires will be part of the “statement” product category that can help differentiate one manufacturer from their competition. The lighting designers and agents can also leverage their expertise in HCL system to either enrich their service offerings to existing customers or attract new clients. For the solution providers of lighting control system, HCL is another value-added functionality that makes their solution more appealing and differentiated.
FlexTune system is a game changer