Are lighting controls really 55 years old?

Founded in 1959, Delmatic pioneered the concept of electronic control of lighting.  At that time we could see the benefits in energy-efficiency and flexibility of controlling a number of lights in an area both individually and as part of a group, but without the need for multiple conventional switches and wiring.  It was from this initial idea that the concept of electronic lighting control was born, and the innovative products and concepts we pioneered in those early days have developed into the multi-million pound lighting management industry we know today.


How have workplaces changed? 

Workplaces have changed beyond all recognition over the last fifty five years and flicking through our image archives of projects is like taking a ride in a time machine.  The images show two of our earliest projects and two of the most recent.  Spot the differences – the hairstyles and clothes, the furniture (when did you last see a drawing board?), and an ashtray ….   And just look at the differences in the quantity and size of the lights and the ceiling types and the extent of natural light.


How have lighting controls changed? 

Curiously enough, although the way in which lighting controls operate has changed beyond recognition, the essential concepts of flexibility and efficiency have remained the same: indeed some of the features we take for granted as standard now were present in the very first lighting control systems.

The first major office project to be equipped with Delmatic’s innovative system was BP’s new headquarters, Britannic House, in the early 1960s.  The 35-storey building itself made headlines as the first tower block to be built in post-war London and was described as a “genuine modern building with sophisticated services technology”.

Until this point lighting had always been controlled by mains switches which were inflexible, inefficient in energy-usage, and disruptive and costly to alter to suit changes in office arrangements.   A high profile building such as Britannic House needed a completely new approach and the press of the day applauded Delmatic’s futuristic solution of “a wired remote control switching system which integrates local, master and automatic and control of lighting to increase the effectiveness of lighting by up to 40%”.

The system at Britannic House introduced a number of features which are regarded today as standard aspects of any lighting control system yet, at the time, were totally revolutionary.  These included fully flexible control with an individual relay controlling each luminaire, 24V switching allowing cross-phase and cross-circuit switching, interoperable local user control and central automatic control, daylight-linked switching of perimeter lighting and corridor hold-on, as well as central status indication of lighting on a master control panel.

The central control console at Britannic House contained an array of illuminated pushbuttons which lit up if any office or corridor light was lit on a floor – a major advance at the time but compare it with the software graphics of today which show the status of each lamp, and how long it has been on, and alerts when it fails. 


How has the technology changed? 

The 1960s lighting control module pictured below looks huge compared to today’s silicon-driven micro-circuitry and yet the concept of all equipment being unpluggable for ease maintenance and hardware upgrades has remained a standard features of all Delmatic hardware.

In the decades following our first lighting control system, Delmatic pioneered many new technologies and control innovations including plug-in lighting control modules (now known generically as LCMs), automated emergency light testing (now including monitoring too), and demand-response load-shedding.   Technology changed from exclusively switching controls to analogue (1-10V) dimming, through DSI digital dimming to latest digital DALI dimming and at the beginning of 2015 we are now on the cusp of DALI 2 technology.  Still pushing the boundaries of technology, Delmatic have introduced various innovations in the DALI fieldincluding Dali Without Addressing as well as Dali Zero Power – a feature pioneered at the Masdar Institute zero carbon project in Abu Dhabi.

Delmatic continue to excel in the development of innovative control solutions.  Our latest connected systems combine the open ISO protocols of Lon, BACnet and IP with DALI technology, while continued focus on design and development creates integrated hardware and software at the cutting-edge of the electronics, lighting and the IT sectors.  


Contact us to discuss optimising your next project.