There is a lot to say for standardization but also we can also find several points that plead against it. Sometimes there are steps made that in retrospect where not that smart but also the other way around we have many examples where not standardizing has basically left the market with huge problems. So what would be the advantages of standardization? It helps to increase competition. It helps to get clarity on the market. It increases the speed of adoption.
An analogy. Thomas Edison had made his specific lamp holder that was to help him sell his lamps. These lamps where all the same and more important they did have a specific lamp cap to make the electrical connection. This cap is now still one of the most popular lamp caps around and is the E lamp cap. This lamp cap was made in several different sizes. Smartly there is the E26 for the us market and the E27 for the european market (and many more). This cap and lamp holder was normalized and took care of the possibility of using lamps from different manufacturers in the same lamp holder.
The development went on. If you look at the market nowadays you have many different kind of lamps that still use the edison screw lamp holder. The shapes have changed from the basic pear shape to many other shapes. Also the used technologie inside has changed. We now have not only the different incandescent lamps but also cfl and led in this same product with essentially the same form factor and with the same lamp cap.
In the many years that followed also other shapes and lamp caps have been developed. Like for example the G13 lamp cap. This one mainly used for fluorescent tubes also saw a great development. First started with the big lumpy fluorescent tubes, switching to the smaller (T8) tubes and further developing with new driver technologie, from magnetic to electronic. Also here a next step is taken to LED tubes also using the same lamp holders and replacing fluorescent tubes. Again the essential lamp cap, the interface between the light source and the luminaire, has not changed.
And so there are more examples. Since we this blog is about lighting I will not go into other industries but many analogies can be found there too. So lets look in some detail in what the differences are between the standardization that Zhaga is doing and that what IEC has done.
If you look at Edison, he normalized the lamp cap only. This meant he specified the electrical interface but basically not anything else. The connections made are the same for every lamp but in the concept there is one issue missing and that is the placement of the light source. In the case of a incandescent lamp the light is coming concentrated from one place but you do not have the guarantee that it is the same for every different brand. This results is a not defined photometric interface and the light output of the luminaire can give a different image with different brands.
If we are looking at fluorescent lighting, it has already made another step. The electrical interface is defined, being the lamp cap size G13 and the distance between 2 holders (mechanical interface) determine the type of light source that can be used. This is the same of course for the T5 with the G5 lamp holder. The light source is in these cases in exactly the same spot and that gives the luminaire manufacturer much more possibilities in “designing the light” because when the source is replaced the lighted area will not change.
In all these cases heat has not yet been an issue. Yes these light sources, especially incandescent, generate lots of heat and it must be dissipated in a way. The advantage here, in comparison with LED, is that it is more critical for the luminaire than for the source itself. Also a incandescent bulb can overheat and reduce lifetime but in general the heat generated has more effect on the luminaire itself so care will be take to prevent overheating.
With LED the heat from the LED is not the biggest problem but more keeping the LED cool. If this is not solved the lifetime will go down rapidly when LED’s overheat. So in Zhaga it is basically the first time that the heat management or heat interface is taken into account in the standardization.
So in Zhaga you see that these issue are taken into account and that it is basically not different from what has been done in the past. Will this help the adoption of LED? Good question and in am guessing that in the long run normalized sources have a bigger chance of surviving than those that are not. Will we have only Zhaga normalized? No I am certain that we will have specialized, niche players, in LED modules. We have that also in the old technologies like neon tubes or small indicator lamps also neon that are not normalized. This will not change in my view.