Category: Controls

Speech-Controlled Lighting

Virtual personal assistants use speech recognition technology to execute voice commands by users. Now homeowners can control their lighting, shades, thermostats, A/V, and other smart devices using virtual assistant apps and devices compatible with popular smart lighting and home automation systems.

Below is my contribution to the January 2018 issue of tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Reprinted with permission.

Virtual personal assistants use speech recognition technology to execute voice commands by users. By 2021, 1.8 billion users around the world are projected to use virtual assistants, according to market research firm Tractica. While industrial/commercial applications are growing, a major end-use is residential.

In the home, virtual assistants can provide a wide range of services, such as looking up information on the Internet, playing music and videos, and buying products from online retailers such as Amazon. The most popular platforms are Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Microsoft Cortana, with Facebook M launching in mid-2017.

Now homeowners can control their lighting, shades, thermostats, A/V, and other smart devices using virtual assistant apps and devices compatible with popular smart lighting and home automation systems.

A typical solution utilizes a voice-recognizing virtual assistant device (speaker or phone), Wi-Fi connection, downloadable smart device app, and a compatible lighting control or home automation system. Smart lighting systems are typically plug and play, with simple installation and scalability.

“Until recently, controlling smart lighting in the home boiled down to basic apps and automation,” said Greg Rhoades, Director of Marketing, Leviton Energy Management Controls & Automation. “For example, you schedule a lamp to turn ON at sunset, or you use your phone to turn a lamp OFF after you’ve climbed into bed. Now, technology and advancements have allowed us to control our lights through voice command. Quick, easy, and familiar.”

Incorporating voice recognition with a home lighting system begins with selecting a system that recognizes inputs from, for example, Amazon Alexa (with an Echo device), Apple Siri (with HomeKit), Google Assistant (with Google Home), and/or Microsoft Cortana (with Harman Kardon Invoke).

“Manufacturers have different flavors of lighting and home automation systems, but the great thing with speech-recognition technology is that it’s hardware-agnostic,” said Mark Moody, Product Manager, Vantage Controls, Legrand. “There’s not much difference. These virtual personal assistant speakers are able to control many smart home devices from different manufacturers.”

After installation, the user can use the device to tell the lights what to do, providing a convenient input in addition to any others installed in the home, such as keypads, mobile apps, motion sensors, and other systems. When a user issues a voice command, it travels to a cloud-based service outside the home, which then communicates to the control provider’s cloud service via an application programming interface. The control provider’s cloud service then signals the in-home controller to execute the command. An advantage for lighting control is response is virtually immediate.

Michael Smith, Vice President of Sales for Lutron Electronics (www.lutron.com), said voice integration can dramatically simplify daily routines. “For example, if you walk into the house and you’re juggling kids, packages, and pets, you can adjust the lights with the sound of your voice by simply telling Alexa, ‘I’m home,’” he said. “Or when you’re easing into the weekend, a quick voice command such as, ‘Alexa, turn on Relax,’ will adjust lights, shades, and temperature and start your favorite music to create the perfect mood for catching up on email or reading the news.”

Besides tech-savvy owners, another good market for this technology, Smith pointed out, is people with limited mobility and/or the elderly. Using voice control enables greater freedom and can have a big impact on maintaining an independent lifestyle.

For distributors, they gain an important selling feature for smart lighting systems. “There is an opportunity for electrical contractors and distributors to extend their range of services and become smart home technology advisers,” said Michael Deschamps, Product Marketing Manager, Philips Hue, Philips Lighting US (www.meethue.com). “While installation is simple, many consumers are still looking for support with fixture installs and want assurance that everything will work properly within their homes. It’s important that they learn how everything communicates and what products are interoperable to ensure the best smart lighting and smart home experience.”

Image courtesy of Philips Lighting.

Sample solutions

Leviton’s solutions include Decora Smart lighting controls, a system of switches, dimmers, and plug-in modules for appliances and lamps. Decora Smart with Wi-Fi Technology provides hub-less operation, time-based schedules, If This, Then That customization, free remote control from anywhere, and optional integrated voice control via the My Leviton app, which is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Decora Smart with HomeKit Technology allows for customizable, hub-less lighting control using an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, or Siri.

“The market potential is unbelievable,” Rhoades said. “Voice controls, now that they’re sprinkled throughout all our homes, purses, and pockets, are driving unparalleled demand for third-party services and products, especially smart home.”

Lutron’s smart wireless lighting and shading control systems include Caséta Wireless, RA 2 Select, RadioRA2, and HomeWorks QS. Systems differ in size, functionality, and skill levels for installation, but all are app-based, work with complementary smart home products such as thermostats, and are compatible with popular voice assistants.

“Smart home products are becoming more mainstream every day—they’re also becoming more affordable and easier to maintain,” said Smith. “Lutron’s message to the electrical industry is, ‘Don’t get left behind.’ Anticipate your customers’ needs and help them get started with a smart home.”

Philips Lighting’s Hue system is based on smart lights (color-tuning lamps, strips, luminaires, and controls), an app, and a bridge that works with Zigbee to connect up to 50 light points and 12 accessories. The system is interoperable with more than 600 apps, products, and platforms from other brands and developers. In addition to voice, Philips Hue smart lighting works with Nest, Samsung Smart Things, Vivint Smart Home, Xfinity Home, and other products for a seamless home automation experience.

“Smart lighting is a great place to start when building a smart home,” Deschamps said. “You can see and feel its impact on your home and life immediately.”

Image courtesy of Philips Lighting.

Final word

Moody advised contractors and distributors to keep it simple. “The common pitfalls are a poor network and overcomplicating the system, from commands to integration and configuration,” he said. “The network needs to be robust. Electrical contractors also need to be aware of the added programming and configuration that will go into custom skill environments for voice control. Keep it simple.”

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Marine Veteran Ran Against Virginia GOP Incumbent Because of Experience with Lighting Control System

Tuesday’s elections had a number of upsets, one of which was Democrat Lee Carter winning a 9-point victory over a Republican incumbent for a Delegate seat in the Virginia legislature. His decision to run for political office was inspired by his experience installing a lighting control system connected to a miswired lighting control panel.

Tuesday’s elections had a number of upsets, one of which was Democrat Lee Carter, a Marine veteran and Democratic Socialist, winning a 9-point victory over Delegate Jackson Miller, a Republican incumbent who is the House Majority Whip. His decision to run for political office was inspired by the aftermath of an injury he received installing a lighting control system connected to a miswired lighting control panel.

New Republic has the story here. Here’s what he said:

“I was installing lighting control systems and I got shocked because the lighting control panel I was working on was miswired by an electrician,” [Carter] told [the article’s author] in Manassas last month. “I got a 245-volt shock—in one hand, out the other—right across the chest.” He blew out his back in the incident. He could barely walk for months. His frustrating battle with the state to get workers’ compensation for his injury inspired him to enter politics. “When I was able to walk again … I decided I’m not just going to walk. I’m going to run for something because nobody should have to go through this.”

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Rebates for Networked Lighting Controls

My lighting column in the October issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR describes the DesignLights Consortium’s market transformation program aimed at networked lighting controls and describes the first utility rebates promoting the technology.

Based on utility interest in increasing energy savings by using networked lighting controls, the DesignLights Consortium (DLC) launched an ambitious market transformation program focusing on a specification for networked lighting controls that utility rebates programs can use to qualify products, channel training focusing on contractors and distributors, and providing reliable data to guide energy savings estimates. These efforts are starting to germinate.


My lighting column in the October issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR describes the DLC’s program and the first utility rebates targeting the technology. Read it here.

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Networked Lighting: Changing the Game

The energy savings potential of networked lighting controls has attracted interest from utilities, prompting the DesignLights Consortium (DLC) to develop a market transformation program that may prove a game changer in the industry.

Below is my column published in the October issue of tED Magazine on the topic of the DesignLights Consortium’s networked lighting controls program. What’s new this year: an updated specification and new rebates centered on this technology. Reprinted with permission.

A networked lighting control system consists of an intelligent network of individually addressable luminaires and control devices. Potential advantages include cost-effective application of multiple control strategies, programmability, building- or enterprise-level control from a single point, zoning and rezoning using software, and measuring and monitoring.

First developed for fluorescent lighting, these systems were inhibited by interoperability, lack of familiarity, complexity, and cost issues. As a result, the Department of Energy (DOE) estimated current market adoption in the installed lighting base at <1 percent, focused mostly in larger commercial buildings.

The controllability of the LED source, coupled with falling costs related to integrating sensing, micro-processing, and networking, resulted in renewed interest in networked lighting control. Today, it is a major product trend among lighting manufacturers, with a wide range of solutions on display at LIGHFAIR 2017 in Philadelphia. These systems may be wired or wireless; interior or exterior; focus control on the luminaire, room or building or enterprise; and stand alone or integrate with other building systems. These systems have developed to reduce complexity, commissioning, and installed cost, positioning them as suitable even for small projects.

DOE regards connected lighting as a major energy savings opportunity that will eventually replace traditional single- and multiple-strategy controls as well as energy management systems. In its 2016 Energy Savings Forecast of Solid-State Lighting in General Illumination Applications report, DOE forecasted market penetration in the installed lighting base to reach 15 percent in 2020, 31 percent in 2025, and 59 percent in 2035, with the commercial building sector leading adoption. This translates to connected controls accounting for one-third of all LED energy savings by 2035.

However, DOE recognized issues inhibiting adoption of connected lighting, such as interoperability. If industry does not address these inhibitors, DOE significantly downgrades its adoption forecast. In 2015, DOE announced the Connected Lighting Systems Initiative, through which it is working with industry on energy reporting, interoperability, system configuration complexity, and new features. More recently, DOE also launched the Connected Lighting Test Bed, which provides a platform offering testing and data to industry to facilitate development.

The energy savings potential of networked lighting controls has also attracted interest from utilities, prompting the DesignLights Consortium (DLC) to develop a market transformation program that may prove a game changer in the industry.

Qualified Products List

Billions of dollars each year are allocated to lighting rebates, making them influential in the lighting market, particularly in existing construction. With some 100 utilities as members, the DLC maintains the Qualified Products List (QPL), a list of LED products that satisfy strict performance criteria. Utilities use the QPL to qualify products for rebates.

In May 2016, the DLC released a specification for networked lighting controls that formed the basis for a dedicated QPL. In turn, this positioned networked lighting controls for rebate programs. Utilities already promote lighting controls but are looking for ways to save energy beyond energy codes, resulting in interest in high-performing LED products and networked controls.

Recognizing standardization among products is lacking, the DLC developed a flexible specification. Systems are listed with “required” and “reported” capabilities. Required interior networked control system capabilities include luminaire and device addressability and networking; continuous dimming; zoning; and occupancy sensing, daylight harvesting and high-end trim control. Further, the solution must be commercially available and supported by a minimum five-year warranty.

Reported capabilities provide additional information. These include control persistence; building automation system integration; energy and/or device monitoring (and remote diagnostics); user interface type; operating and standby power; and scheduling, load shedding, personal, and plug-load control.

In June 2017, the DLC released version 2.0 of the specification, which built upon V1.0 to add requirements for exterior lighting control systems and adding new information such as application program interface (API), color tuning, start-up and configuration, and security information. The most significant change is in differentiating interior and exterior systems with separate required and reported features. For example, the DLC requires interior systems to have occupancy sensing but requires exterior systems to have either occupancy- or traffic-sensing capability.

Required and reported networked lighting control system capabilities for interior systems (top) and exterior systems (bottom).

The result is a list of products utilities can use for rebate programs and distributors can use as a tool to compare highly individualized solutions from manufacturers in a standardized format. As of August 2017, the QPL listed 19 products from 15 manufacturers; these products were in the process of being re-qualified based on the new specification.

“For building designers, specifiers, distributors, contractors, and end-users, the new QPL provides a valuable tool to identify and compare potential control systems for their projects based on their capabilities and characteristics,” said Gabe Arnold, PE, LC, Technical Director, DLC. “All of the listed systems have been carefully reviewed to meet minimum performance standards, will provide significant energy savings, and are pre-qualified for utility rebates.”

Rebates

Arnold said more than 20 energy efficiency programs now require networked control systems be on the QPL. His main goal, however, is for new rebate programs to be created promoting the technology.

As of August 2017, about a dozen rebates had been created by utilities and programs such as Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE), EVERSOURCE, Mass Save, National Grid, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), and Wisconsin Focus on Energy. Though a DLC goal is program standardization, there is currently no consistent approach among utilities as they experiment with models.

“We are excited about the momentum we are hearing about from the utilities and energy efficiency programs,” Arnold said. “Most of them are actively looking at how to incorporate the technology and QPL resource. They see this technology as essential to achieving their current and future energy efficiency goals. That said, it will take time for some utilities to develop these new rebates because this technology is not as simple as incorporating an LED light fixture measure into a program.”

Baltimore Gas & Electric, for example, takes a simple prescriptive approach. It awards $50-80 for a DLC-qualified LED troffer. Customers can earn another $40 per luminaire if they incorporate DLC-qualified luminaire controls.

PG&E’s LED Accelerator Program bases its networked lighting control rebates on energy saved. It awards $0.17 per kWh and $150 per kW if DLC Premium luminaires are installed. The rebate increases to $0.24 per kWh and $150 per kW if DLC-qualified networked lighting controls are also installed.

Wisconsin Focus on Energy, meanwhile, rolled out a rebate based on an entirely new approach. Customers can receive either a $0.125 or $0.25 per square foot rebate if a DLC-qualified networked control system is installed, depending on the application. An additional $0.05 per square foot can be earned if the system features energy monitoring capability and the customer agrees to share energy data with the utility or energy efficiency program.

“We see the utilities serving a critical role in accelerating the adoption of the technology, both near and long term,” Arnold said. “As they did with the introduction of LED, many utilities will offer higher-than-normal rebates at the early stages to jumpstart the technology adoption. This will in turn help drive greater volume, and with this greater volume will come lower costs, more utilities and rebates, and ultimately widespread adoption. In a few short years, we even expect some utilities to begin requiring networked lighting controls to be installed in order to access any lighting rebates.”

Other tools

Arnold pointed out that the DLC has launched two additional support programs to facilitate adoption of networked lighting controls.

The DLC is currently developing an energy savings database using energy savings data collected from more than 120 commercial buildings. The first report will be published in September 2017.

“The report will provide estimates of energy savings by building type, and, as the dataset allows, by more granular characteristics such as space type, geographic region, control strategy, etc.,” said Arnold. “It will be essential for rebate programs to able to plan, justify, and build new programs and rebates for networked lighting controls. For industry, this dataset and report will provide a credible third-party resource that can be used to estimate the savings from advanced control systems.”

Finally, the DLC developed channel training about networked lighting controls specifically aimed at electrical distributors and contractors.

“This is an important group to reach since they are the trusted experts for a huge numbers of buildings,” Arnold said. “When customers ask, ‘What should I install?’, their recommendations decide what does and doesn’t get installed. In addition, many of them are unfamiliar, even wary, of some of these new networked lighting control technologies.”

A goal of the training, in fact, is to convey that newer networked control systems have solved old problems such as complexity, confusion, and high cost of installation and commissioning.

The training will become available through several utilities in the spring of 2018 as a pilot program before becoming widely available both as face-to-face sessions and as an online program by end of spring.

Networked controls

With rebates, third-party energy savings estimates, and training, demand for networked lighting controls in existing commercial buildings is expected to increase. The DLC’s goal is for these control systems to go from controlling a small minority of installed lighting to widespread adoption.

For more information and to view the QPL, visit www.designlights.org. If you have networked lighting control energy savings data you would like to share with the DLC, contact them at info@designlights.org.

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Getting Ahead of the Curve on Dimming Curves

My contribution to the July issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR talks about dimming curves and why they’re important. As dimming becomes more important, electrical contractors may benefit by becoming familiar with…

My contribution to the July issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR talks about dimming curves and why they’re important.

As dimming becomes more important, electrical contractors may benefit by becoming familiar with dimming curves. The dimming curve defines how dimmers set voltage output in response to control signal input, such as a slider position. Intuitively, it would appear optimal for an LED light to dim in direct proportion to the input, what we would call a linear curve. If we push a slider halfway down on a dimmer, light output should reduce by 50 percent. It is indeed suitable for energy-saving applications. When dimming for visual needs, however, it often isn’t. In this case, the source ideally will dim along a nonlinear curve that matches user expectations (perceived as linear) and accounts for how the eye works.


Read it here.

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NLB Panel Discusses Power Over Ethernet

Lisa L. Isaacson (NuLEDs) and Michael S. O’Boyle (Philips Lighting) discussed power over Ethernet (PoE) systems at the National Lighting Bureau’s Annual Lighting Forum during a session called “Illuminating the…

Lisa L. Isaacson (NuLEDs) and Michael S. O’Boyle (Philips Lighting) discussed power over Ethernet (PoE) systems at the National Lighting Bureau’s Annual Lighting Forum during a session called “Illuminating the Future, Part One”. Randy Reid (EdisonReport) moderated.

According to Isaacson and O’Boyle, PoE differs from conventional DC networks in that the cabling used can carry both power and communications signals, much as a smart phone that receives both power and communications signals when it is connected to a computer via a universal serial bus (USB) connector.

Being able to rely on one cable network for all connected devices permits connected devices to communicate with one another, evolving into an “Internet of things” (IoT) inside each building where the technology is used, and to communicate with other systems and other buildings, to as wide an area as desired. It also enables users to communicate with their lighting, using a smart phone and an app, to increase or decrease the amount of electrical illumination being provided, or to change the color of its output.

The panelists noted that PoE will not eliminate the need for conventional AC circuitry, but it will eliminate the need for AC power transformation when it comes to power for electronic devices. Both panelists also expressed confidence that PoE will likely be installed routinely in the near-term future, not only because of the versatility it provides, but also because it is safer to handle: Line-voltage AC can cause fatal accidents; low-voltage DC is much safer. PoE systems will also become less costly to install, Ms. Isaacson said, because less installation labor is involved. Right now, the cost to install a conventional system or a PoE system is about the same, because PoE’s installation-labor savings are offset by higher equipment costs. As more competitors enter the market, and as the equipment becomes more widely available, equipment prices will fall, so that wiring a building with both PoE and AC, where needed, will cost less than wiring a building with AC alone.

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NALMCO’s CLCP Certification

Below is a short news article I wrote for tED Magazine on the topic of NALMCO’s new controls certification. Reprinted with permission. The interNational Association of Lighting Management Companies (NALMCO)…

Below is a short news article I wrote for tED Magazine on the topic of NALMCO’s new controls certification. Reprinted with permission.

The interNational Association of Lighting Management Companies (NALMCO) has launched the Certified Lighting Controls Professional (CLCP) designation. With no prerequisites, the CLCP is open to all professionals in the building, information technology and electrical industries.

LEDs are highly friendly with lighting controls. A majority of LED lighting is equipped with dimmable drivers. As a digital device, the LED source is inherently compatible with digital lighting controls. Advances in wireless communication, simpler and cost-effective products, and new interest among utilities are resulting in growing demand for networked and other lighting controls.

Networked lighting controls have several barriers to adoption such as an array of system approaches, IT involvement and lack of standardization, but one particularly worrying barrier is a potential skills shortage. Advanced lighting control systems may be becoming simpler, but they are still sophisticated, creating a potential education gap among specifiers and installers. This education gap applies to an extent for all controls, not just networked controls.

Of particular interest are skills related to consultation on product selection, protocols and integration; knowledgeable installation; startup/commissioning; and operations and maintenance.

The industry has responded with several initiatives. In California, the California Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program (CALCTP) has trained more than 2,500 electrical workers on lighting controls. The program has expanded to include other states and Canada under a national version of the program (NALCTP). Meanwhile, the DesignLights Consortium is developing a training program to support utilities implementing rebates based on its new Qualified Products List for Networked Lighting Controls. The National Association of Independent Lighting Distributors (NAILD) is developing an online education program. And the Lighting Controls Association provides Education Express, a free 24/7 online education program covering lighting control technology, application, design, energy codes and commissioning. Five courses are prerequisites for CALCTP/NALCTP training. (Full disclosure: This article’s author is the author of the NAILD and most of the Education Express courses.)

NALMCO saw an opportunity to develop a national certification signifying a high degree of generalized knowledge about lighting controls. The CLCP is based on the Lighting Controls Association’s Education Express curriculum. Students demonstrate completion by passing an online test at the end of each required course. The student then takes a separate 100-question online test, which is automatically graded. Passage earns certification for three years. The CLCP recipient must maintain certification by completing eight hours of continuing education each year.

CLCP demonstrates a high degree of generalized knowledge about lighting controls. It is available to any electrical industry professional at NALMCO.org.

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PC LED Lights Can Be Used to Hack Data

PC WORLD recently published an article about the type of visible light communication we don’t want, one that leaks passwords and other data. Here’s how it works. Malware hijacks the…

PC WORLD recently published an article about the type of visible light communication we don’t want, one that leaks passwords and other data.

Here’s how it works. Malware hijacks the blinking lights on a PC, which then transmit data to a drone.

The researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev demonstrated how it could be done in the below video:

Check out the article here.

Another article talked about how researchers were able to hack Philips Hue smart lamps from a drone, which you can read here.

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Hacking Reveals Weak IoT Security

From LUX: “Hackers harnessing Internet of Things (IoT) devices, including smart lights, have crashed some of the world’s biggest websites including Spotify, PayPal and Twitter. It is no secret, as…

From LUX:

“Hackers harnessing Internet of Things (IoT) devices, including smart lights, have crashed some of the world’s biggest websites including Spotify, PayPal and Twitter.

It is no secret, as revenues from LEDs fade, that the lighting industry is placing a big pile of gambling chips on the success of the Internet of Things, but the hack marks the second major security breach in as many months, suggesting IoT is not yet ready for the big leagues.

A handful of the world’s top websites were targeted during the attack, including The New York Times, CNN and Amazon, making this the most high profile attack to date and one aimed at disrupting the very fabric of the internet in the United States.

The attack was carried by hijacking thousands of IoT devices, which had previously been infected with malicious code allowing attackers to take control of them. The attackers were then able to perform a denial of service (DDoS) by getting the enslaved devices to flood the chosen websites with messages, causing them to crash.”

Click here to read the article.

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NALMCO Launches New Controls Certification

The interNational Association of Lighting Management Companies (NALMCO) has launched a new lighting controls certification, the Certified Lighting Controls Professional (CLCP). The certification is based on the Education Express curriculum…

The interNational Association of Lighting Management Companies (NALMCO) has launched a new lighting controls certification, the Certified Lighting Controls Professional (CLCP). The certification is based on the Education Express curriculum developed by the Lighting Controls Association. The announcement was made at the organization’s annual conference in Dallas, TX.

The lighting industry is undergoing massive change due to growing demand for intelligent LED lighting systems and controls. LED lighting, which promises high operating cost savings, is ideally paired with both wired and wireless intelligent lighting controls, which promise additional savings and flexibility. Accelerating demand for these technologies is transforming workspaces while reducing costs. It is also creating an education gap among service providers unfamiliar with aspects of the technology.

The electrical industry has responded with a series of initiatives, but to date, there has been no national certification signifying a high level of general expertise in lighting controls technology, application, design and commissioning. To address this need, NALMCO developed the Certified Lighting Controls Professional (CLCP) designation.

The CLCP is based on 60 hours of the education curriculum developed by the Lighting Controls Association’s Education Express online education system. Certification is available to anyone in the industry.

Education Express provides in-depth education about lighting control technology, application, system design and commissioning. Now celebrating its 10-year anniversary, it serves more than 25,000 students, who have completed more than 205,000 learning modules and 140,000 comprehension tests taken for education credit.

Click here for more information about the CLCP designation.

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