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The Niagara Falls Lighting Episode

Martin SearanckeThis episode is extra special in that it include a case study of the software behind the lights for Niagara Falls. Nick and I spoke with Martin Searancke of Dream Solutions, Ltd. in New Zealand, who is the architect of the Light Factory software used by the Niagara Falls Illumination Board to illuminate Niagara Falls.  After you listen to the podcast you can read the case study write up here.

The software uses both VCL and FireMonkey. The backend control software is written in VCL and the frontend user interface side is written in FireMonkey. It also uses components by Mitov Software, TMS Software, and LMD Innovative.

A few links we mentioned

Here is a little documentary about the new lights at Niagara Falls. It mostly focuses on the hardware side of things, but you can watch it knowing the software comes from your favorite development tools.

Niagara Falls Lighting Software Case Study


The decision to upgrade the lighting that illuminates Niagara Falls seems as though it should be the main story but, it’s not. The part of the project we are interested in is the one where the Niagara Falls Illumination Board (NFI) added a requirement to build a more flexible color illumination scheme to replace the old guillotine color-changing scheme that had been in place since 1974. The guillotine color-changing synchro-server mechanical system was to be replaced by a digital color control system and the twenty-one 4000w Xenon lights were to be replaced by 1400 digital-friendly nine-light LED modules in which the LED’s would be multi-color rather than having to place a filter in front of the white light of the Xenons. The LED system of lights would be software controlled from a 22-inch touch screen from over a 2000 foot distance from the falls.

Niagara Falls LEDs Powered by Delphi

The Solution

The technical and engineering challenges to a project of this scope and magnitude were significant right down to the last task of choosing the lighting controller and connecting it with the 1400 LED light modules. The software that drives the system is housed in the controller and is built using Embarcadero’s Delphi Powered by Embarcadero DelphiIntegrated Development Environment (IDE). The FireMonkey (FMX) application development platform is used to create the front end functionality, and the Visual Component Library (VCL) is used for the back-end services. FireMonkey and VCL are both integrated elements of the Delphi IDE.

The lighting controller was a commercially available machine marketed by Philips Strand Lighting as part of their NEO line of lighting consoles.

NEO Console running Martain's software

The existing software code in the NEO lighting console dated back a few years given that the console had been sold commercially before the Niagara Falls lighting project was even considered. The first challenge to overcome was to review the technical and performance requirements needed to accomplish the vision of the NFI and update the FireMonkey and VCL code to meet the required functionality. Then, came the customization of the code to accommodate all the connecting equipment that would drive the LED modules and the end user interface, the 22-inch touchscreen.

The overall objective of the new control console and software code within was not to try and upstage the majestic beauty of the falls but rather to organically enhance visual images of the falls at night when it couldn’t be seen otherwise. So, special effects such as strobing and other awe and wow factors were ignored in favor of techniques such as backlighting the falls to reveal hidden beauty in addition to a penetrating forward color-changing illumination. The results were nothing less than magnificent requiring new software profiles due to the color changing properties of the LED modules. The final result was ten preset modes for each side of the Falls (American and Canadian) encompassing color schemes to match naturally occurring, organic events such as the aurora borealis, sunset, sunrise, waves, and color gradients.

One unique capability that was requested to be programmed into the FireMonkey and VCL code was a user interface the allowed operators to use a touch-sensitive color-picker button on the screen to change scenes instantaneously. The LED lighting modules instantly responsive making these color changes dramatic and inspiring. A mobile interface module and application was created using FireMonkey to allow visitors and tourists to be able to manipulate the solid color palette and see the changes appear right before their eyes.


The Niagara Falls Lighting Project brought to light one of the real values of Embarcadero software. In this case, the Delphi IDE and its integrated parts (FireMonkey and VCL) is life-cycle engineered so that code developed years ago can be updated and reused to create an entirely new, cutting edge capability for new technologies such as LED lighting modules. This fit the Niagara Falls Illumination Board (NFI) requirements perfectly. The design of the system was mandated to done such that in the future, changes and additions can be easily accommodated. Embarcadero and its Delphi IDE proved its worth and was demonstrated to be able to meet future requirements as the Niagara Falls lighting system evolves and new technologies come online.

Niagara Falls Lit by Delphi

Cool Apps News

Cool App Contender: SUMOTORI DE CHU

The next contender in our cool app contest is SUMOTORI DE CHU.

SUMOTORI_DE_CHUAre you fond of wrestling, sumo or other fighting games? You should surely try SUMOTORI DE CHU app. Inspired by Japanese national sport SUMO; it is a competitive full-contact sport where a wrestler attempts to force another wrestler out of a circular ring. It is an amazing minimalistic network game for two players.

It uses Wifi to synchronize the position, score and sound on a local network. Users can update their player image by taking snaps from their camera which will automatically get updated in the other player profile as well. Players can control the motion by tilting their device in the intended direction. This unique game also senses the physical motion of the user and this makes it able to control the motion in the game by those physical movements.

It is not just tilting the mobile device that makes the wrestler movie, but for acceleration you need to make big movements. The simplicity, physical involvement and the realistic touch to this game makes it a great contender for the cool app contest.

Usage of technology to develop the app:

This game is designed using Delphi and it is aimed for iOS and Android devices.  It used some of the best Embarcadero product features such as FMX Application Platform, App Tethering, Box2D, Sensor manager for the gyroscope, Motion sensor for the accelerometer, component Camera (accessed through an action), and JSON. To enable running simultaneous audio files it uses free Game Audio Manager Class provided by

Watch the video to understand the basic features and use of this cool app.

Built with Delphi Power by FireMonkey

Cool Apps News

Cool App Contender: Network Fool Card Game

I don’t know Russian, but I suppose I think I’m pretty good at recognizing Cyrillic characters and assuming it must be Russian. But I checked with Google Translate and it tells me that this is Russian for “Network Fool game.” The video also includes some Cyrillic text on buttons and such, but no audio.

It turns out Network Fool isn’t just a card game. It is an plugin for the chat system CommFort. Maxim describes the architecture pretty well:

Since the text chat is a client-server structure I had to write the server side of the game – to store statistics and other calculations, as well as the client part. However, the client side is not so simple, it not only communicates with the server, but also starts a separate process for the graphic display of the game and builds a GUI in the chat window. The server and client side is a dll library written with VCL, and the graphical shell is a separate exe using FMX.

I love that network fool integrates with a 3rd party system, extending a chat system into a full card game platform. The fact that is uses both FireMonkey and VCL to make it all work is a great example of flexibility and versatility. It is developed with Delphi, and uses FireDAC and Named Pipes to make it all work.

Watching the video I would not have expected that it was a card game plugged into a chat system. It looks more like a card game with an integrated chat window. I’m always tickled to see people extend systems in new and creative ways like this. Certainly a cool app contender.

Built with Delphi Built with FireMonkey Built with VCL

Notice the VCL button doesn’t have an icon on it? You may remember the old one with the colorful, 3D shaded shapes: circle, cube and cone. I’m working on a new one that I hope you all like just as much. Stay tuned!