There is clearly a huge disparity in what control system developers consider valuable — proprietary ownership of technology — versus what specifiers and owners consider valuable — open spec, interoperability, and selecting industry-best components as they please. This is especially acute within the North American architectural lighting industry, but certainly it is not exclusive to that geography.
For example, if I wanted to buy an excellent Crestron touch panel, a Lutron wall station with custom finish, and a dimming panel from Lightolier, then I am out of luck. Each of these common manufacturers wants to “control” the whole purchase order and therefore developed their own proprietary control backbones. So designers first have to pick a manufacturer, then pick from their narrow range of gear. And each manufacturer has to develop a complete range before they compete; so everyone makes a lot of copycat, generic products just so they can compete at all. How does this help anyone in the industry???
This problem is especially exacerbated by the continual stream of startups. Each one, even if they market themselves as “open”, ultimately want to create a choke-point that they control, some critical system function that — without their ingenious design — none of the other “open” system components will work.
In Europe, the DALI specification is much more common. But it is badly dated and extremely limited. The time has come for a new control backbone standard that supports much larger installations, high bandwidth, and a wide variety of devices — from simple on/off switched lights up to video cameras and projectors. Essentially, a standard based on Ethernet hardware.
Clearly, being able to mix and match components that work together on a common, industry-standard backbone would greatly open up the potential for innovative new products. Individual companies would excel at certain aspect of a system; I predict that very few would continue trying to supply every required component to make a complete system.