- The Xicato Bluetooth story
- Gerard Harbers, Xicato founder and CTO, accepts Bluetooth award
- New Xicato Intelligent Sensors for automated lighting
- More Perfect Light! - Artist and V9 now in 4000lm
- About Bluetooth 5
- Xicato Gallery
- Xicato Evaluation Kit
A (maybe not so) brief history of Xicato and Bluetooth Mesh
When we started Xicato over 10 years ago, we set out to create the best light source in the world. Inspired by the light quality of tungsten-halogen lamps and daylight, we created LED modules that consistently deliver the color qualities of natural light, but with much higher efficacies, and much longer life.
What do you do for an encore?
In 2010, when we asked our customers what we should do next, it was not about color quality anymore: "You have already met our highest expectations in terms of light quality," is what they told us, "there is not much more you can do to improve on that. But here is where we need help...". And they started explaining about their struggles with traditional LED drivers -- the high cost and poor quality of light control (in particular with LEDs), changing LED drive currents and Vf and the problems that creates with driver obsolescence, etc.
These were not exactly the responses we had expected. But ambitious as we are, we decided to try to tackle them. Why did we take on this very big challenge? For one big reason: because we are obsessed by Quality of Light. Which is only as good as the quality of the driver. And it is not only a single light that drives the quality of a lit space, but groups of lights and their effect on people. And we believe that this lit effect should be good not only when an installation is new, but all of the time, and for many years.
Building a better driver
As the saying goes, “first things first,” so we decided to start by addressing LED dimming, flicker, and electrical obsolescence. An LED driver is very different than the power supply that charges your laptop or smartphone. Commodity power supplies adjust the amount of current to a constant voltage load depending on its wattage demand. This is a very easy and proven way to regulate power, and constant voltage power supplies are both ubiquitous and cheap. But they cannot be used to drive LEDs directly. LEDs need a controlled current to limit the power, because LED voltages are unstable and can vary widely. While supplying a controlled current, an LED driver must continuously adjust its voltage to match the voltage of the LEDs. And it needs to do that not only at full power, but also when it is dimming, and when it transitions between states. To do this well, the driver needs to be matched with – or tuned to – the LED source.
The way Xicato solved this problem was to develop a very small LED driver, integrate it into our LED modules. And we designed it to be 48V DC powered by widely available constant voltage power supplies. These Xicato Intelligent Modules, or XIM, were released in 2014. Using a constant voltage input allows multiple modules – even modules with different current requirements – to be connected to a single supply, as long as it can provide enough power. 48V kept us under the UL Class 2 limit, while providing high enough voltage to carry power for the maximum number of drivers using standard track and wiring. No more need for specialized and expensive LED drivers… just one power supply to drive them all!
To control XIM, we offered DALI and 0-10V dimming options. Being obsessed as we are with Quality of Light, we went for the best dimming performance, making sure that our driver could dim the source down to 0.1%, and that dimming was smooth with no noticeable or unhealthy flicker. And we included thermal control, so that if the module started to run too hot, the driver would automatically reduce the drive current to make sure it would not be damaged. Even a well-designed fixture can be installed in a challenging environment, and better safe than sorry! Our design is robust enough that we feel confident offering at 7 year, 50,000 hour warranty on the entire module - LEDs and driver!
Integrated operational data sensors
To support predictive maintenance services and our warranty, we also added sensors inside the module to monitor how it is performing, as is done in automobiles. XIM monitors its own temperature, power consumption, drive current, input voltage and ripple, and last but not least, its actual runtime. Monitoring this data allows facility managers to detect issues before they emerge to cause problems. But how do we retrieve the data? And how do we process it to deliver the right reports to the person responsible for maintaining the lighting?
One way is with wires. Operational data can be retrieved from XIM over DALI. But connecting all lights – and switches, and sensors – in existing spaces with wires is expensive, and sometimes even not possible. Think of a historic brick building – the damage and downtime of a space when ceilings or walls have to be broken open. And wiring is expensive even in new installations, not only due to materials costs, but even more due to high labor costs.
We realized that we could not rely on a wired infrastructure to get lights connected, and in 2014, we started looking at various wireless technologies. Bluetooth quickly became the most attractive option, for many reasons:
- Bluetooth is mature - it has been around for almost 20 years, and has been thoroughly tested for reliability and security
- Bluetooth is low cost - devices are already made by the billions each year
- Bluetooth is low power, which reduces “parasitic load” in lighting, and allows battery operated and energy harvesting light switches, motion and light sensors
- Bluetooth is ubiquitous – it allows you to configure, commission, and check status of a fixture directly using the smartphone, tablet, or computer that you already own, using a standard app with an intuitive, user-friendly interface, without requiring any other devices such as a hub, router, or specialized central controller.
- Bluetooth is a robust and reliable radio technology that has evolved over its long history and keeps improving. Bluetooth is specifically designed to work around WiFi, and has at least 4x the bandwidth of Zigbee and Thread, which is important for performance and scalability.
And last but not least...
Bluetooth enables the implementation of iBeacons, Eddystone and Alt Beacons inside the light (or sensor, or driver, or...), creating opportunities for new mobile applications that provide indoor, location based information and navigation services for museums, retailer, and many others.
First Bluetooth products
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) is the entity managing and developing the Bluetooth standard. Companies developing Bluetooth products work together within the SIG to ensure that their products are interoperable with each other. Xicato joined the SIG in early 2015. A short time later, at Lightfair 2015 in New York, we demonstrated Bluetooth based lighting control and data collection from Xicato fixtures. A year later, at the Light+Building show in Frankfurt, Germany, we introduced Bluetooth Based Intelligent Modules, called XIM Gen 4.
The importance of Standards
One important benefit of Bluetooth is that it standardizes the application layers. In Bluetooth “Classic”, which is used to connect your Bluetooth wireless keyboards and headsets, these are called “profiles”. In Bluetooth Low Energy, which has traditionally been used to monitor your heart rate when you are exercising, for example, they are called “services”. Interoperability of these are tested as part of the qualification process.
This is important! Your Sony Bluetooth headset must work with your iPhone and your Windows laptop. And your lighting control system must be able to control and monitor all of your lights! Just as color and dimming are qualities of light, we believe that interoperability of lighting functions such as light control and operational data management are essential aspects of the quality of a lighting installation. What's the point of having a control system which can only control half of your lights? Or having a predictive maintenance solution that covers only some of the installed fixtures?
But at the time we joined the Bluetooth SIG, standards for lighting applications did not exist within Bluetooth! Which meant that the few, forward-looking companies creating Bluetooth based systems were not be interoperable with each other. We needed to find partners to help define an application layer for lighting within the Bluetooth SIG, defining robust solutions for light control and predictive maintenance data sharing. And guess what? We were not the only ones who realized that!
Bluetooth Mesh standard
The SIG formed the Bluetooth Mesh working group in 2015, specifically to develop a standard for mesh networking, with lighting as one of its first applications. Bluetooth Mesh networking allows a collection of devices (called Nodes) to form a secure network for data sharing. And lighting applications were one of the first this group considered because lights are the most common devices in buildings, and can form the foundation of a broader mesh network in a space. So we decided to join that group, and immediately started to help define and develop a standard Bluetooth Mesh application layer for both lighting control and operational data collection. Which was a lot of work! And it took some time to get finished. But many, many interesting features were implemented.
The Bluetooth Mesh standard was released on July 18th, 2017, and Xicato will finish our Mesh migration in the first half of 2018. Mesh is a very important addition to the Bluetooth family, built on top of standard Bluetooth Low Energy. It builds on all the strengths of Bluetooth Low Energy, being secure, reliable, low cost, low energy, and using standardized network and application layers. And it introduces these strengths to the worlds of lighting and building management by creating decentralized, robust, scalable, and reliable mesh networks that are easy to install, configure, and maintain. Bluetooth Mesh will disrupt several existing markets, just as LEDs disrupted the lighting market.
These are interesting times for our industries! Are you ready for this? Let's go!
Gerard Harbers accepts Bluetooth awards
Xicato is proud to announce that co-founder and CTO, Gerard Harbers, was honored with two separate awards at the annual Bluetooth SIG meeting in Kirkland, Washington.
Toby Nixon, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bluetooth SIG said, "Working groups are the driving force behind Bluetooth® wireless technology, delivering innovations that make the promise of the Internet of Things (IoT) a reality. Bluetooth SIG recognizes working group, committee members, and contributors who are making a difference with annual Working Group Awards."
In honoring Gerard as Outstanding New Contributor in Bluetooth SIG Groups, Toby added, “Gerard has been the key contributor to Mesh Device Properties. Through his lighting industry expertise and engineering knowledge, he provided extremely broad and valuable input to one of the key Bluetooth specifications, bringing mesh to an extremely mature level at launch.”
Gerard also received an award as one of two Key Contributors to the Adoption of Mesh Device Properties 1.0, for his contribution of definitions that will enable Bluetooth Mesh devices to exchange device properties and operational data with each other and with central management systems for proactive maintenance.
Xicato Intelligent Sensors enable Automated Lighting Control
October 2, 2017, San Jose CA – Xicato today formally announces the immediate availability of Xicato Intelligent Sensors (XIS), a family of compact wireless nodes that transmit sensor data over the Xicato GalaXi™ Bluetooth network for use by lighting, environmental management, or other applications.
XIS comes in multiple wired or battery powered configurations that can sense motion, ambient light, temperature, relative humidity, and device motion. XIS is already in use in several customer installations, most notably the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, as published in the Xicato May newsletter and in PDF format on the Xicato website.
XIS communicates wirelessly over Bluetooth directly with light sources such as Xicato Intelligent Modules (XIM), or those driven by the Xicato Intelligent Driver (XID) announced just last month. Sensor control response can be instantaneous, because there are no delays associated with extra hops to hubs or central controllers. Control intelligence including sensor response is built into the XIM and XID devices, which can respond individually to one or more sensors, switches, local mobile or remote BMS commands, or even to other lights.
Initial XIS applications include:
- Occupancy detection: activating lights and maintaining light level when occupancy is detected, and fading down after a programmed time-out period
- Vacancy detection: dimming lights that may have been activated by a switch or mobile app after a preset timeout period
- Daylight compensation – limiting light output to a preset maximum level, net of ambient light detected by the XIS lux sensor, to meet local and regional building codes
- Environmental control - managing HVAC based on temperature and humidity data provided by the XIS, gathered remotely through the Xicato Intelligent Gateway (XIG) to a centralized building management system (BMS) for actuation
- Art conservation - absolutely optimizing and minimizing artwork exposure to damaging light, based on both occupancy and lux level reported by XIS
- Remote occupancy tracking and analytics such as heat maps provided by 3rd party software and based on XIS data remotely gathered through XIG
Currently available as PCBA only, XIS01 can be powered by any 6V to 56V DC power source, such as standard 24V or 48V power supplies, and can be mounted in housing suitable for low voltage tracks, ceiling or wall mounting, or powering by a standard DC “wall wart”. XIS02 is battery powered, and can provide years of operation using a standard CR2450 3V coin cell battery.
XIS broadcast sensor data over Bluetooth Low Energy v4.1 for detection by light sources and other devices that understand the Xicato GalaXi™ protocol – including the XIG, which can perform remote environmental data collection and analytics. Xicato will announce standard Bluetooth Mesh compatibility in 2018.
XIS can also broadcast multiple, simultaneous Bluetooth beacons, including iBeacon, Eddystone and Alt Beacons. This makes it a perfect addition to retail stores, museums, malls and shopping centers, historical and heritage sites, and other locations that wish to provide real-time, indoor, location-based information and navigation services.
XIS is protected by a Xicato 7-year, 50,000 hour warranty.
XIS is available today. Contact your local Xicato sales representative or Xicato Authorized Distributor, or visit our website for more information.
More Perfect Light - Artist and Vibrant V95 now in 4000lm
October 2, 2017, San Jose CA – Xicato today announces that Xicato Artist Series® and Vibrant Series® V95 are now available in XCA and XTM modules with 4000lm output, enabling new applications in retail, office, museum, and hospitality installations. Perfect for high-ceiling downlights or flood lights, Artist Series and Vibrant Series V95 products reveal and enhance the quality of rich wood, stone, leather, fabric, and metal surfaces, furniture, or merchandise. Obvious applications include elegant interiors and lobbies, furniture and fashion retail stores, and fresh meat and produce departments in grocery and big box retail stores. These new 4000lm sources provide flexibility to lighting designers to tune light levels for perfect illumination with high fidelity and high gamut color rendering.
About Artist Series
Xicato Artist Series is available today in 2700K, 3000K, 3500K and 4000K CCT. Xicato Artist Series provides typical TM30 color fidelity (Rf) of 96, TM30 gamut (Rg) of 103, and CIE CRI Ra color rendering index of 98, making it the choice for prestigious museums worldwide to replace inefficient halogen lighting.
Click here for the XTM Artist Series datasheet.
About Vibrant Series
Xicato Vibrant Series is a custom spectral formula at approximately 3000K that is specifically designed to enhance bright colors. Vibrant Series delivers enhanced TM30 gamut of 106, with extremely high TM30 color fidelity (Rf) of 93 and typical CIE Ra of 96.
Click here for the XTM Vibrant Series V95 datasheet.
Both Artist and Vibrant Series are available in 9mm and 19mm LES, with 700lm, 1300lm, 2000lm, 3000lm, and now 4000lm output. Artist and Vibrant Series 4000lm are available in 19mm LES in Xicato Thin Module (XTM) and Xicato Core Array (XCA) form factors. All Xicato XTM and XCA sources, including the new 4000lm modules, can be driven and dimmed beautifully using the just-launched Xicato Intelligent Driver (XID) with Bluetooth wireless control.
Xicato light sources and intelligent Bluetooth controls are available today from Xicato Authorized Distributors and directly from Xicato.
About Bluetooth 5
There's a lot of hype and confusion out there about Bluetooth 5. Let’s talk it through.
As purveyors of Bluetooth Lighting Control, we are often asked about the new Bluetooth 5 protocol announced in December 2016 by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). Bluetooth 5 is definitely an advance over previous revisions, but there are a lot of misconceptions about Bluetooth in general, and Bluetooth 5 in specific. This article is an attempt to provide clarity that will allow customers to make intelligent decisions in the face of marketing hype.
Sorting out Bluetooth
There are essentially two Bluetooth transmission protocols:
- Bluetooth Classic is the Bluetooth that connects your phone to your earbuds, or your computer to your keyboard and mouse. It has high bandwidth for streaming audio, but is “connection oriented” for point-to-point communications between up to 7 “slave” devices (such as mouse, keyboard, earbuds, etc.) and a single “master” device (such as computer or smartphone).
- Bluetooth Low Energy (or BLE) is designed for low power broadcasts of short data messages, as between a heart rate monitor and a watch, a bicycle sensor and a cycle computer, or a beacon such as iBeacon or Eddystone and one or more mobile devices. The low power and short messages of BLE enable long battery life. BLE is ideal for communicating sensor data, control commands, URLs, and messages that trigger responses from mobile apps.
These two protocols do not talk to each other, but they coexist in virtually every computer and mobile device. Bluetooth Classic is relatively static and evolving only very slowly. BLE is evolving relatively rapidly to add the features required for the Internet of Things (IoT), including more robust security, bandwidth, range, mesh networking, and more. For example…
Bluetooth 5 is a new form of Bluetooth Low Energy that is backwards compatible with previous versions, but adds several new, optional profiles (see below). Bluetooth 5 requires new hardware (chips) and both ends of a communication link must be BLE 5 capable to take advantage of its additional features.
Bluetooth Mesh is something different – it sits on top of BLE, and defines how to create relationships between Bluetooth nodes to form secure networks that extend the range of communications beyond that of a single radio signal. Bluetooth Mesh is compatible with existing BLE 4.x radio chipsets, as long as they have enough memory to hold the firmware stack. Be sure your devices have at least 256k of non-volatile memory, or you will not likely be able to perform over-the-air firmware updates.
Bluetooth 5 is independent of Bluetooth Mesh. Bluetooth Mesh is currently defined to operate over BLE 4, but will likely work with BLE 5 in the future. BLE 5 is about bandwidth and range, and should actually simplify Bluetooth Mesh network engineering by providing the ability to reduce network hops through longer range, or increase scalability through higher bandwidth at normal range.
This article is intended to help you understand exactly what Bluetooth 5 does and does not add to existing Bluetooth Low Energy 4 implementations.
Why the confusion?
What causes confusion is carelessly worded marketing:
MYTH: Bluetooth 5 gives you 2x the bandwidth and 4x the range
This statement is very misleading. It suggests that you can get longer range and higher bandwidth at the same time. This is not true. The following table compares the bandwidth, data throughput, and ranges of the Bluetooth 4 and 5 profiles.
Connection speed is the raw digital bandwidth of the radio channel (the physical layer, or “PHY” in network-speak), which is a function of the analog spectrum (2 MHz) and the digital encoding technique.
Network data rate is how fast the protocol is actually talking on that channel.
Data Throughput is analogous to how much it is actually able to say – how much content (actual data) is transferred, net of communication overhead.
BLE 5 adds three new communication protocols to BLE 4.2, and all of them are optional, meaning a chip or product vendor can theoretically claim BLE 5 compatibility without implementing any of them. Of course, it is more likely that they will implement one or more of them, but you can't be sure without looking deeper at their specifications.
About Higher Bandwidth
Notice that BLE 5 doubles the BLE 4 connection speed and network data rate from 1 Mbps to 2 Mbps, but does not quite double the actual data throughput. Rather, what you actually get is about 1400 kbps vs. 800 kbps, or 1.75x the speed of BLE 4. This is because even though it is sending bits at twice the speed, it has more overhead. For example, BLE 5 retains the same 150µsec inter-frame space (IFS) time gap - the time between packet transmissions - as BLE 4.2, which means it is wasting twice as many inter-frame bits.
About Longer Range
Looking at the long range options of BLE 5, you can see that the total data throughput is much lower. This is okay for endpoint devices such as sensors, but not so good for networked nodes. The reasons for lower bandwidth are:
- Both LR profiles operate on a 1 Mbps PHY, like BLE 4, rather than 2 Mbps as with the high bandwidth version of BLE 5. This limits the potential data throughput.
- In addition, BLE 5 LR profiles achieve their longer range through the use of forward error correction (FEC), which introduces quite a bit of redundancy into the packets in order to make it more robust over the longer range. But this redundancy is effectively wasting bits, and therefore reduces effective data throughput… bigger packets means fewer packets per second.
- Also because of FEC’s longer packets, the radio is required to remain in high power mode for longer periods of time, which wastes energy. In fact, BLE 5 long range profiles can consume up to 13x the power of BLE 5 high bandwidth profile, dramatically reducing battery life in battery powered devices.
TRUTH: Bluetooth 5 can give you either 1.75x the bandwidth OR up to 4x the range (with reduced bandwidth and higher power consumption)
Other promising Bluetooth 5 features
Larger payloads: BLE 5 increases the maximum packet payload size from 31 to 255 bytes (some authorities say it is more like 27 to 251 bytes, but you get the idea), which increases net data throughput by 8x and facilitates sending larger advertising messages as well as faster over-the-air (OTA) updates.
More advertising channels: Both BLE 4 and 5 have 40, 2 MHz channels. BLE 4 uses 3 of them for advertising (broadcasts) and the other 37 for data. BLE 5 can use all 40 for advertising, which presents even more opportunities for app developers.
Bluetooth 5 looks like it will provide real benefits in situations where higher data throughput or very long range are real application requirements, such as outdoors and in large warehouses. It should also reduce network hops and improve the scalability of dense Bluetooth Mesh networks – especially for IoT – once Mesh has been implemented on it. However, being a new protocol, BLE 5 has not been widely implemented in end devices (the latest phones from Apple and Samsung being a few), and thus far, Xicato has yet to encounter an installation where BLE 5 would be helpful, much less necessary.
It is becoming evident that customers should solve the problems they have in front of them, using the tools that are currently available. Lighting is becoming more like computing – you will never have The Latest, because there will always be a later “Latest”. Xicato will implement the best technology available, as it becomes both available and relevant, including Bluetooth Mesh and Bluetooth 5.
Xicato Galleries for Inspiration and Reference
The Xicato Galleries continue to grow. In the past month, we have added several projects and luminaires from four more companies, including Efficient Lighting Systems in Australia, Gamma Illumination, FOSFENS, and Mike Stoane Lighting. Among these are new downlights, some beautiful pendants, table lamps and floor lamps. check it out!
The Applications Gallery includes photos, descriptions, and credits to the designers and manufacturers, and is searchable by manufacturer, type of application (museum, hotel, retail, etc.), geography, light type (Artist, Vibrant, etc.) and module type (XTM, XCA, XIM and XIM Generation 4).
The Luminaires Gallery includes luminaire descriptions, photos and links to the manufacturers' websites, and is searchable by company, luminaire type (e.g. recessed downlights - adjustable, etc.), geography, light and module type.
We hope you find these galleries useful. And we hope you will contribute your own projects and luminaires! All it takes is to send in high-quality photos, along with a Gallery Submission Form with the necessary information about the project or luminaire, and permission to publish.
What can YOU do with Xicato XIM Gen4?
More and more lighting designers, specifiers, and OEMs are getting familiar with wireless Bluetooth control, sensors and beacons using our XIM Gen4 Evaluation Kit. The XIM Gen4 development kit comes with two XIM Gen4 modules on heat sinks, with optics and power supply, a USB BLE dongle, and the Xicato Intelligent Sensor (XIS), which is a Bluetooth integrated sensor with passive infrared (PIR) motion sensing, lux sensing, temperature, humidity, and an accelerometer.
Making full use of the kit requires the Xicato Control Panel software for Windows, and the XIMtroller iOS software, both of which are free from Xicato and the Apple iTunes App Store. Click below for more information.