Architecture for Control Networks

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Architecture for Control Networks (ACN) is a suite of network protocols for show control developed by Entertainment Services and Technology Association (ESTA). The first official release is formally referred to as ANSI E1.17 - 2006 - Entertainment Technology - Architecture for Control Networks. The protocol has been revised and released under the name ANSI E1.17 - 2010.

ACN was designed as a control architecture for audio, lighting, video playback servers (media servers) and similar systems. The protocol is designed to be layered on top of UDP/IP and therefore will run over standard, inexpensive Ethernet and 802.11 (Wi-Fi) network links.

ACN relies on UDP in order to pass its messages. Where reliability is required, the Session Data Transport sub protocol allows semi-reliability of only the latest value for a particular "channel".

Protocol architecture[edit]

ACN defines a number of sub protocols. These protocols all follow the TLV style Protocol Data Units (PDU). These can be nested in predefined hierarchy.

Some of the protocols defined in ANSI E1.17 are:

  • Root Layer Protocol Operation on UDP (Arch)
  • Session Data Transport Protocol (SDT)
  • Device Management Protocol (DMP)
  • Device Description Language (DDL)

There are also definitions for interoperability with other protocols, including MIDI, SMPTE, DMX512-A, RDM, RS232, Analog Input, and Contact Closure Output[1] The protocol for DMX is covered by the ANSI standard: Lightweight streaming protocol for transport of DMX512 using ACN (ANSI E1.31 - 2009).


The Device Description Language (DDL) is a standard for ACN, formally referred to as ANSI E1.17-2010, Architecture for Control Networks Device Description Language. It is intended facilitate a high degree of automation in when configuring control networks and their devices; particularly in the configuration of controllers for devices discovered on a network. DDL is based on the Extensible Markup Language (XML) syntax.[2]

Interoperability profiles[edit]

The ACN protocol may be further defined via interoperability profiles which will extend various layers of the ACN stack, or define how elements of the ACN architecture must be used in a particular situation to achieve interoperability. For example, by providing specific values for timing parameters to be used in a particular network environment.


E1.31 (Streaming DMX over ACN) is supported on Linux (ARM; i386, x86-64), and Macintosh (PowerPC; i386, x86-64) by the Open Lighting Architecture.[3]

There is currently an OpenACN implementation project in progress which is hosted by SourceForge. This will provide open source library implementation which is intended to be portable to a variety of platforms from small embedded devices, to Windows and POSIX conformant operating systems.[4][5]

There is yet another open source ACN project on Codeplex which is implemented in C# and aims to provide a full managed code implementation of the standard and many of the sub protocols associated with ACN.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The IES Controls Protocol Committee. "Lighting Control Protocols", IES TM-23-11. Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, 2011. pg 21
  2. ^ PLASA North America, "ANSI E1.17-2010, Architecture for Control Networks Device Description Language". TSP Document CP/2009-1024r1, 2011
  3. ^ "Open Lighting Architecture". Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  4. ^ "OpenACN". Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  5. ^ "OpenACN home page". Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  6. ^ "Architecture for Control Networks project home page". Retrieved 5 October 2011. 

External links[edit]