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Tunable white: How DALI is making it easier to create lighting that feels natural

Tunable white is now included in the DALI-2 certification program for lighting control products, giving users the confidence to get the most out of this exciting technology.

July 9, 2020

Tunable white’s time has come.

The colour-control technology has taken off in recent years, thanks to big advances in the controllability of LED lights, and in our understanding of how that light affects our wellbeing.

When we think of colour-changing light, the images that come to mind probably include the vibrant displays we see at special occasions, entertainment events and famous landmarks. But changes in colour can also be subtle.

Tunable-white lighting control adjusts the colour temperature of white light to mimic natural light, with shades ranging from the warm, golden glow of an incandescent lamp, to the cooler, more blueish tone of sunlight at midday.

The aim is to make light feel more natural, by bringing the outdoors indoors. Tunable-white control can be used to create atmosphere, promote wellbeing and improve comfort, and to make a positive contribution to so-called human-centric lighting schemes.

Tweaking the tone of white light may not be a brand new idea, but it has been attracting more and more attention from designers, specifiers and end users of lighting, as workplaces seek to maximise productivity, retail stores seek to offer the best shopping experience, and healthcare settings seek to improve patient wellbeing.

That’s why the DALI Alliance (also known as DiiA) has incorporated tunable-white functionality into the DALI-2 certification programme [1].

Now, manufacturers of LED drivers can have their tunable-white functionality certified for compatibility with the DALI-2 control protocol. This ensures interoperability with an extensive range of DALI-2 devices from multiple DALI Alliance members. 

DALI is an open protocol for digital lighting control and is based on the global standard IEC 62386. DALI has been around since the 1990s, but with the evolution to DALI-2, and the introduction of DALI-2 certification, it is now more comprehensive than ever.

The DALI Alliance has widened the range of products that can be certified, and toughened up the testing procedure. To have products certified as DALI-2 compatible, manufacturers must have their test results verified independently by the DALI Alliance.

DALI-2 tunable white delivers interoperability

Robust testing and verification means that DALI-2 tunable-white products offer improved interoperability, so users can have the highest confidence that they’ll work together reliably. Proprietary tunable-white control systems do not offer the same assurance.
The DALI Alliance has done this because we want manufacturers and users to realize the full potential of tunable white. After all, the significance of tunable white goes beyond just appearances.

It is also about how light affects people on a physiological level, controlling our body clock. The human eye pays close attention to the brightness and colour of the sun’s light throughout the day, and uses it to regulate our energy levels, hormones and sleep patterns in a cycle known as the circadian rhythm. This can have a profound effect on mood, concentration, productivity at work, and general health.

The colour temperature of white light is also rich with associations that architects and designers can harness to create the atmosphere they want. For instance, warm light evokes the homely feel of candles and open fires, while we associate cooler tones with more professional settings.

For users all over the world who want light to feel more natural, DALI-2 certification will make it easier than ever to achieve, enabling the very best tunable-white lighting control. The first DALI-2 tunable-white LED drivers are available right now, from numerous DiiA members [2].

The evolution of  DALI-2 is an ongoing process, with more new functions set to be ready for certification soon, including RGBWAF and xy-coordinate colour-control systems that can create a full spectrum of coloured light.

Right now, manufacturers, engineers and designers can benefit from DALI-2 to incorporate tunable white into standardised, reliable, interoperable lighting systems. The rise of tunable white is a sign of how lighting is evolving – and DALI is here to accelerate that evolution.


[1] Tunable white DALI-2 drivers successfully implement colour type Tc of Part 209 of IEC 62386. See www.dali2.org/dali2/colour.html for more information.

[2] To find tunable-white LED drivers in the DALI Alliance product database (www.dali2.org/products), select the button “Control gear” in the Product Search, then select the button “Colour control (part 209, DT8)” then “Colour type Tc”.


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