Everything you wanted to know about wireless communication in lighting. Part 2: Data rate

This is the second part of our guide on wireless communication in lighting. Today, we’ll discuss data rate, one of the essential characteristics of every wireless technology. How important is it in lighting applications? Read on to find out!


What is data rate?

Data transfer rate is one of the crucial parameters determining the efficiency of wireless communication technologies. The higher it is, the faster data packets reach their destination – freeing up radio waves, minimizing the occurrence of radio packet collisions, and preventing network saturation. A higher data rate also means lower duty cycle of transmitters, which directly translates into longer battery life.

In terms of data rate, there are strong differences between the leading low-power communication standards. With its maximum throughput of a mere 100 kbit/s, Z-Wave is clearly the slowest protocol. All of the 802.15.4 radios, such as ZigBee or Thread, are significantly faster as their maximum data rate amounts to 250 kbit/s. Leading the pack, hands down, is Bluetooth mesh with its capability of transferring data at a rate of 1 Mbit/s. Wi-Fi offers throughputs that are orders of magnitude higher, but this comes at the expense of extreme power-hungriness. This proven wireless standard can’t be considered low-power, which is one of many reasons why Wi-Fi fails as an engine for wireless lighting controls (more details here: wireless lighting controls).


What does it mean for lighting?

Data rate is extremely relevant when it comes to the overall efficiency and reliability of wireless lighting control systems. This is because in lighting applications, instant responsiveness is taken for granted. Especially in the commercial environment, latency needs to be kept close to none. LEDs must respond immediately to occupancy sensors’ detection of presence. And they must respond instantly to on/off/dim commands sent from wireless switches and dimmers. In a high-density network, ensuring a fully synchronous and responsive operation becomes a serious challenge for low-power, low-throughput technologies. A sufficient data rate is one of the top requirements that must be met in order to address this challenge. There are others, though, and we will discuss them in the upcoming blogposts. Stay tuned!

Silvair Team

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