4. How can controllers be installed on smart lamps?
There are a few ways in which luminaire controllers can be connected to smart streetlights. First, it is important to know that you can decide to invest in new lamps or you can find a solution that is compatible with the fixtures you already have installed. Secondly, you need to differentiate among the various socket types and mounting options that are available.
Wire connections can be used to attach smart streetlamp controllers
This is the most flexible approach, as controllers can be mounted anywhere on the lamp or street lighting pole, being wire-connected to the lamp’s power supply. It is mostly used for retrofitting, as you can use the existing infrastructure to connect smart controllers, making it very fast and cost efficient to deploy: because you are updating the existing streetlights, there are no lamp investments and almost no public works needed.
Be careful, you might only be able to connect the controller to the pole, not to the lamp. Also, older lamps might not have DALI interfaces available. This means that the dimming option could no longer be available because, for dimming commands to be received, the communication needs to happen directly with the ballast. Not to worry, the other smart features will remain intact.
If you want to make sure that the controller can be connected to the lamp and that it supports dimming, you should check that:
- the lamp has an electronic ballast compatible with interfaces such as 0-10, DALI or DALI2 (dedicated protocols for digital lighting control)
- the lamp itself supports dimming
- the controller has dimming capabilities
Street lighting standardised plug-and-play connectors
As smart control is an important issue for all stakeholders in the outdoor lighting industry, there have been significant investments and initiatives in standardizing lamp connectors. The main reason is to facilitate smooth lamp upgrade and fast lighting controller installation. For instance, standardised connectors like NEMA or Zhaga come with plug&play mounting options that turn controller installation in a few-seconds job, keeping deployment costs at a minimum.
Using standardised connectors means that controllers can be installed on any lamp, as long as the controller is compatible with the lamp socket. Using streetlights with such connectors brings you all the advantages of smart lighting control and facilitates any future upgrades.
Smart street lamps with embedded controllers
If you need to install smart street lamps while keeping lamps’ architectural value (historical areas, for example), then embedded controllers might be the right choice for you. Sometimes having a NEMA or Zhaga controller mounted on the lamp is simply not an option, but you still need the benefits of a smart, fully integrated lighting system.
Embedded controllers are built to be particularly small, in order to fit inside the luminaire itself. This way, you favour aesthetics and also keep the advantage of creating a smart and integrated street lighting grid. If you are a smart lighting integrator or lighting service provider, you probably have the engineering capabilities to try to integrate the two devices yourself, but embedded controllers are mostly mounted inside the lamp directly from the production line.
Some lamp producers have developed their own control solution (some even preferring closed, proprietary control solutions), while others prefer to integrate third-party systems with their products. If you plan for flexibility and want to avoid being supplier-locked, the important difference is not the control system provider, but rather the solution’s interoperability. Only open control systems (open standard communications, API connection availability or TALQ/TALQ2 compatibility) will provide freedom of supplier choice for future smart lighting or smar city developments.