4 generations of light control units

With these four boxes we have controlled the streetlights for more than a decade. Throughout the years the boxes have been smaller - and more intelligent.

Datek Light Control controls the light along the roads in over 100 municipalities. Our solution ensures that it is appropriate light where and when needed. There has been a long journey from the first prototype to where we are today. Here is a bit of our history and an introduction to 4 generations light control units for luminaire control.

Light mastering with Zigbee technology

There are two ways to control street light – feeder pillar and column control. We are dealing with both. There have been major developments in both solutions in recent years. Let’s start in 2006 when our first light control units were born.

When we started the development of generation 1, we discussed whether we should use Powerline or radio communication to communicate between the units. At this time, it was most common to use powerline, but we wanted to go for radio communication. We were sure it was wireless that was the future.
At this time, we had little to do with the actual control of the light. We worked with server communication and communication to the feeder pillar. An external partner developed hardware while we developed software. Our light control unit spoke with a coordinator unit which again spoke with the gateway in the feeder pillar. One of the first Zigbee chips did the job.

There were plenty of reasons why we chose Zigbee. We wanted to use a standard radio protocol, and at that time Zigbee was already a mature technology with good features in relation to this field of use. Key features were range, the way Zigbee network can repair itself and robustness.

Generation 1 was installed in 2 different locations – both have been taken down. The first generation was far from optimal and we soon realised that we had to make improvements.

More power and intelligence (generation 2)

In 2007 we started a development project for generation 2 where the goal was more power and more intelligence. We made the software and the communication between the light control units and our gateway. Through the development of this generation we found that we had to have total control of the entire product if we were to be a good supplier.

A power meter was built into Generation 2 and approved by the Justervesenet (Norwegian Metrology Service) to meet requirements for measuring consumption.

At this time our partnership with an english company named Royce Thompson started. Today, our partner in England is Charles Endirect. Generation 2 was installed at Highways England.

The gps generation (generation 3)

We wanted the management unit to be smaller and less expensive in production. An external partner designed new hardware. We made the software, both the communication code and the code to control and monitor the light. While we were developing generation 3, the LED luminaries were being introduced to the market. With LED the luminaries became smaller and it became more difficult to install units internally. Therefore, we created a control unit that can be mounted on the outside of the luminaries. Generation 3 was launched in 2012. The plants in Highways England and several municipalities in England were expanded with generation 3. The units were also installed on our largest project in England – M25 around London.

It was problematic to get information from the installers about which devices were installed in the different luminaries. Therefore we found that we could put a GPS on the device, so that the device itself could tell us which luminaire it is installed. This has been a great success and the installation process at Ølandsbroen was in a class of its own.

Generation 4

We bring all the lessons learned from previous generations and are now launching a whole new unit. Future luminaires will be supplied with a connector on the top and a driver in the luminaires that supply power to the control unit. Generation 4 has Zhaga plugg connector and Zigbee radio communication. It is being launched in the first half of 2019 and we have already started to get orders for the new units.

The future

In the future, there will be many new ways of transporting data. The mobile operators are introducing completely new technologies (LTE Cat-M1 og Narrowband IoT) at today’s mobile base stations which in the long term can make it appropriate to use their infrastructure instead of building own wireless networks. This, of course, depends on the mobile operators offering competitive models.

We already have prototypes on several of the new technologies and we are continuously considering these for our next generations. About a year ago we managed to turn the lights on/off eith Narrowband-IoT. fjor på denne tiden klarte vi å tenne og slukke lyset med Narrowband IoT.

Examples of other radio standards we consider to support in the future are LoRa, Bluetooth Mesh, WiFi og Thread.

All our units are of course Nemko certified which is a good guarantee of quality.