Unifying NEMA and Zhaga

5 Minute Read

Combining NEMA and Zhaga Standards for Smart Outdoor Lighting Solutions

The evolution of outdoor lighting systems has brought us two distinct standards: NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) and Zhaga. While both connectors have paved the way for advanced lighting systems, they reveal two diverging approaches to individual lighting control. Bridging the gap between them poses an intriguing engineering challenge with the potential to revolutionize smart outdoor lighting networks.

Unifying NEMA and Zhaga Street Lighting Control System QULON
Unpacking the NEMA Connector Street Lighting Control System QULON

Unpacking the NEMA Connector

NEMA's legacy in outdoor lighting is undeniable. This connector, born at the dawn of automated lighting controls, primarily used three contacts for power conveyance—a power input, a power output, and a neutral. This arrangement facilitated basic operation: switching lamps on or off via a photosensor. With technological advancements, especially the introduction of dimming capabilities, the connector evolved to include four additional signal contacts. Two were allocated for dimming functionality, while the remaining two, whose usage isn’t strictly regulated, will be of particular interest.

The major benefit of the NEMA connector lies in the simplicity and cost-efficiency it brings to outdoor lighting solutions.

The Zhaga Paradigm Street Lighting Control System QULON

The Zhaga Paradigm

Zhaga, on the other hand, represents a leap forward in lighting control sophistication. A quintessentially modern standard, it incorporates a four-contact connector system dealing exclusively with signal transmission. What sets Zhaga apart is its use of low-voltage power – no more than 30 V DC – provided by specialized drivers compliant with the D4I standard.

In this ecosystem, devices are governed by the DALI 2.0 protocol, a digital communication bus that equally operates within the 30 V constraint. This innovation transforms the connector into a signal-and-power conduit, albeit at the expense of adopting higher-priced drivers and necessitating lamp upgrades.

Integration: The Best of Both Worlds Street Lighting Control System QULON

Integration: The Best of Both Worlds

The integration of NEMA and Zhaga arises from the market's burgeoning demand for smart sensors compatible with the Zhaga standard. These range from compact digital motion sensors to environmental trackers and even multifunctional cameras. The versatility of Zhaga sensors can transform traditional lighting into a dynamic data acquisition network, optimizing the urban lighting infrastructure for smart city applications.

Integrating these two standards involves a clever utilization of the unregulated contacts in the NEMA connector. By repurposing them to deliver low-voltage power—sourced from the lighting control unit—it becomes feasible to merge NEMA's simplicity with Zhaga's sophistication. An enhanced interface then paves the way for managing both standard DALI and advanced DALI 2.0 protocols, which is necessary for sensor operation.

With this amalgamation, it becomes possible to outfit existing NEMA luminaires with diverse Zhaga-compliant sensors without demanding extensive alterations. Users can now couple a classical NEMA fixture with a DALI driver, enabling it to work seamlessly with a miscellany of Zhaga sensors offered by various manufacturers.


The symbiotic relationship between the robust, proven NEMA standard and the avant-garde, feature-rich Zhaga standard doesn't have to be confrontational. By strategically intertwining these connectors, outdoor lighting can evolve into smart, interconnected systems that do more than illuminate – they can become responsive, energy-saving, and data-informed assets that brighten the path to smarter cities. The fusion of NEMA and Zhaga is more than a technical breakthrough; it is a step towards a future where every street light contributes to a city's intelligence and livability.

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