In October 1879, Thomas Edison perfected a workable electric light at his laboratory in Menlo Park, N.J.  Thus, the incandescent lamp was born.  More than 80 years later, the first practical visible-spectrum (red) light emitting diode (LED) was developed by Nick Holonyak at General Electric Company.  Almost 50 years later, the lighting industry has evolved and added a variety of products to support and improve upon Mr. Edison’s incandescent lamp.

Today, NEMA’s Lighting Systems Division is focused on developing a systems approach to lighting with an eye toward saving energy.  Part of this effort is the newly approved project is to develop a forward-looking standard for Phase Cut Dimming of LED lamps with a global perspective.  Phase cut dimming controls the power delivered to the lighting system by cutting off a portion of the input AC voltage waveform.  The effort is at the request of the Zhaga Consortium, a private international organization of companies with the charter to promote LED interchange-ability through electrical, thermal, and mechanical interface specifications.

For the first time, the focus of this Solid State Lighting (SSL) standard will not be on backwards compatibility with the installed base, but, on what the future may bring.  In addition, this will be a truly global standard, with requirements for different country and regional electrical systems.  The standard will include safety, reliability and performance requirements for phase cut dimming.  It is expected that Part 1 of the standard, which will cover safety and reliability requirements, will be ready for publication in the second quarter of 2012.  The group will then turn its attention to the development of Part 2, which will cover performance requirements and testing.

New technologies, like LED lighting, bring new challenges in the world of standardization.  Often, it is said that standards development takes too long.  This has led to the creation of many consortiums to focus on new technologies.  I have also heard from those that have been turned away from consortium efforts, who feel as though they have something to add to the efforts.  While I could write a book on traditional, consensus-based based standardization versus consortium-based standardization, I won’t.  In this case, though, it is encouraging to have a consortium reaching out to a traditional standards developer to work together toward the best interest of the industry.  I just hope that this is the first of many collaborations that make standardization meet the timelines required by new technologies while ensuring that all stakeholders have the opportunity to participate.


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