The much-anticipated international communications standard E1.17 Architecture for Control Networks (commonly known as ACN) recently received certification from ANSI (the American National Standards Institute), achieving the last needed step in its full ratification process. The Board of Directors of ESTA (Entertainment Services and Technology Association) approved ACN on October 5, 2006. The Control Protocols Working Group and the Technical Standards Committee of ESTA approved the new standard on July 15, 2006.

Like DMX, ACN allows equipment from different manufacturers to operate together and function seamlessly within the same control network. Unlike DMX, ACN works over Ethernet, using Internet standards, greatly increasing opportunities for product innovation and performance. ACN has already arrived in lighting control systems. Manufacturers like ETC (Electronic Theatre Controls, Inc.) debuted ACN-enabled products at the LDI 2006 tradeshow in Las Vegas. ETC’s new Congo™ jr console and the award-winning Eos™ control system were designed from the outset to use the powerful ACN protocol.

“This past August represented the 20th anniversary of the ratification of the DMX standard,” says Dan Antonuk, chairman of the ACN task group, and network products development manager for lighting manufacturer ETC. “Twenty years from now people will look back on the acceptance of the ACN suite of protocols in the same way–as a watershed moment for technical progress in our industry.”

Antonuk predicts that ACN will find its way well beyond lighting and into sound and multimedia control. “ACN allows control devices to discover the properties of new equipment on the fly. Every ACN device is able to provide a file that fully describes its capabilities to any lighting desk or controller. This file uses a structured fixture-library format called DDL. This on-the-fly ability to adapt to new equipment makes ACN attractive in uses as far ranging as consumer electronics or industry-specific professional applications. It is also ideally suited for dynamic environments like audio mixing and video effects.”