Bluetooth SIG introduces Networked Lighting Control (NLC) Profiles

Silvair welcomes Bluetooth® NLC as an important milestone in the development of a global and interoperable standard for wireless lighting control. Interoperability has always been our goal, and we have always emphasized that it’s the only way towards mass adoption. Bluetooth NLC is the last missing link required to achieve that goal. Believing it will unlock the full potential of Bluetooth Mesh in lighting applications, we are committed to supporting the new standard in our products.

Evolution of Wireless

The release of Bluetooth NLC Profile Specifications comes 6 years after the adoption of the Bluetooth Mesh standard. Its impact on the wireless lighting control landscape has been truly transformative. With a wide range of solutions designed specifically to address the challenges of wireless lighting control in commercial spaces, Bluetooth Mesh set the bar at an entirely new level, providing reliability and scalability not seen previously in wireless systems. At the same time, it redefined the commissioning experience, allowing multiple processes and actions to be automated and simplified. The bottom line is the much-needed ease of use that allows the commissioning process to be carried out smoothly and in a timely manner, ultimately reducing commissioning costs. When developing Silvair Commissioning, we took everything the Bluetooth Mesh standard had to offer and started working on what we believed could become the most reliable, intuitive, and user-friendly commissioning platform in the market. Our work is not done, as we keep learning, improving, and adding new features - but the feedback we receive from the market tells us that we’re on the right track.

By standardizing the communication architecture, the Bluetooth Mesh standard provided a rock-solid technology foundation for a new wave of enterprise-scale wireless control solutions. However, to accommodate a broader range of applications, including the ones that are much less complex and challenging than commercial lighting control, many of the features and requirements included in the Bluetooth Mesh specifications have been optional. The idea was to not force the complexity at all costs, but instead provide the advanced features where they are necessary. What initially seemed to be the right approach resulted in market confusion that kept growing over time. Technology vendors took multiple shortcuts to deliver various types of mesh-based solutions to the market, as quickly as possible. These solutions were often based on the Bluetooth Mesh specification only to a very small extent, effectively being proprietary technologies.

On the other hand, an increasing number of vendors started using standard-compliant Bluetooth communications to establish a link between the network and the smartphone during the commissioning process. This has already become almost a default approach now, proving just how well Bluetooth technology is positioned to address the needs of wireless lighting control. The problem is that more often than not, the entire communication between luminaires/sensors/switches in these systems is carried out via proprietary protocols. So in the end, we saw an abundance of products that were, purposely or accidentally, referred to as Bluetooth Mesh solutions. But not having much in common with Bluetooth Mesh specifications, they were not able to provide the level of reliability and scalability attributable to Bluetooth Mesh. Being proprietary technologies, they were also not able to provide any sort of interoperability, adding to the market confusion mentioned above.

Enter Bluetooth NLC

This is one of the problems that Bluetooth NLC Profile Specifications are expected to address. NLC Profiles are device profiles that sit on top of Bluetooth Mesh, each with its own set of performance parameters and supported models. By adding standardization at the device layer, Bluetooth NLC enables multi-vendor interoperability and positions itself as the global wireless standard for commercial and industrial lighting markets. This clarifies standard compliance issues that have caused so much confusion over the recent years. In that sense, Bluetooth NLC is the last missing link required to unlock true interoperability and faster mass adoption. It becomes an ultimate distinguisher between standard-compliant solutions and proprietary systems that use Bluetooth only to a narrow extent. It also facilitates project specification, since the requirement to support NLC Profiles will be sufficient to ensure compliance with the standard.

Understanding the opportunities that Bluetooth NLC opens up for all market participants, Silvair fully supports the Bluetooth SIG’s efforts aimed at delivering a full-stack standard for wireless lighting control that ensures standardization from the radio through the device layer. We are also committed to developing our products in line with the Bluetooth SIG’s vision of the Bluetooth Mesh standard development. Therefore, we will make sure that our firmware is compliant with Bluetooth NLC Profile Specifications, and that our commissioning tools can work with any Bluetooth NLC-compliant devices.

The Future is Networked

Years ago we not only made a strategic bet on the Bluetooth radio but also decided to share our IP and start contributing to the development of the Bluetooth Mesh standard within the Bluetooth SIG. We did this because we firmly believe that only open standards can push connected lighting forward and drive the widespread adoption of wireless lighting controls. Standards give customers the freedom to choose from a variety of products from different vendors, allowing them to reap the benefits of a fully competitive market. Proprietary ecosystems are not only divisive (technology fragmentation is said to be the main blocker for IoT/smart lighting adoption), but also risky and ineffective. By solving the challenge of interoperability at the device layer, Bluetooth NLC opens a new chapter in the history of standardized wireless lighting controls. We are excited to be part of that history, and we are looking forward to all the opportunities this will create for us and our Partners.

For more detailed information about Bluetooth NLC Profiles, read the latest Bluetooth SIG blog post.
Bluetooth NLC official press release can be found here.

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