Will ZigBee Rule Networked Lighting?

As we pointed out in a recent report, a dozen or so startups now dominate the big, untapped smart lighting controls market, with the best likely to become acquisition targets for building controls incumbents, such as Honeywell (s HON) or Johnson Controls (s JCI). But stealthy startup Daintree Networks wants to take a slightly different tack: deliver ZigBee-based, interoperable lighting controls to market by partnering directly with the incumbents. Will the big boys be interested?

Daintree CEO Danny Yu thinks there’s a good chance. Only about 7 percent of buildings in the U.S. have lighting controls, meaning that incumbents are likely to be competing across each other’s customer bases to deliver interoperable lighting control products. The market wants “a wide availability of solutions that are easy to use and easy to integrate, regardless of vendor,” as Yu sees it,and that means systems built on standards of some kind, rather than proprietary technologies.

That’s where ZigBee comes in. Since 2003, Mountain View, Calif.-based Daintree has made ZigBee testing and certification gear, giving it a pedigree in the low-power wireless standard now underlying many of the smart meter-home energy management projects underway at utilities across the country. That could give ZigBee a leg up in the commercial and industrial lighting retrofit market as well, where wireless solutions could be cheaper than those that require rewiring buildings.

Several other lighting control startups, such as Adura Technologies and Echoflex Solutions, are also going the wireless route, but Yu says that Daintree’s plan to partner with OEMs should give it lower capital costs than competitors that are building their own equipment. Beyond building control giants, other potential partners could be demand response providers such as EnerNoc and Comverge, he said.

Daintree hasn’t announced any partnerships yet, but Yu said the company expects to make a big announcement in the next month or so. As noted in our new report on GigaOM Pro (subscription required), building owners list a “one-stop integrated solution” and having a “plug-and-play concept” as top priorities when it comes to new lighting control technologies. Since the incumbents in the field have yet to make a big public push into lighting controls themselves, it’s likely that startups will be setting the pace — and if Daintree’s platform works as well as advertised, it seems to have a pretty good shot.

For more, see GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Report: An Assessment of the Lighting Control Market Segment