Osram demonstrates wirelessly steerable LED downlight

May 7, 2015
Individual control of 61 LEDs allows the OmniPoint SSL downlight to direct light on command over a relatively-wide maximum beam area with the control coming via a smartphone app.

Individual control of 61 LEDs allows the OmniPoint SSL downlight to direct light on command over a relatively-wide maximum beam area with the control coming via a smartphone app.

At LightFair International (LFI), Osram demonstrated a new LED downlight with a controllable or steerable beam. The OmniPoint prototype solid-state lighting (SSL) product enables a user to narrow or broaden the beam pattern, or even to direct light to a specific area in a space with no light in other areas. The luminaire is wirelessly configured over a Wi-Fi link using an Apple or Android app on a smartphone or tablet.

Understand that OmniPoint is still in development, although Osram said it could come to market in as little as ten months. The company demonstrated the LED downlight in a space the size of a typical office, a small retail space, or perhaps a dining area. The prototype is the size of a 5-in. downlight and delivers 3000K, 90-CRI light. Target applications include retail, museums, and hospitality.

Osram achieved the steerable beam by using 61 individually-controllable LEDs in the fixture. The granular control enables the fixture to light a small area within the maximum potential beam area, or even to produce brighter accent lighting in one area and dimmer ambient lighting in other areas of a space.

"With Osram OmniPoint, lighting designers can do things never before possible, like create circular or elliptical highlights easily and move them anywhere in the interface to see the results of their design in real time," said Jerry Ryu, principal lighting designer at Osram Sylvania. "They can shape and combine multiple beams to create nearly limitless lighting designs for various applications."

The idea of directing a beam is certainly not new, but most such downlights require a user to mount a ladder and make a mechanical adjustment – for instance, when a display in a retail store is changed or to highlight a new exhibit in a museum. In other cases, lights have been equipped with motors for remote steering. With the OmniPoint LED downlight, the app allows control over where light is produced and at what level with no mechanical movement.

The most-similar example of an electronically steerable beam that we have covered is the Audi Matrix headlamp used in European models of top-end Audi sedans. But OmniPoint includes control of LEDs at an even more granular level. We also saw a steerable luminaire demonstrated by Terralux in a Strategies in Light 2015 session. But that Terralux design segmented LEDs into seven channels, providing good ability to configure a luminaire but far less granular control relative to the Osram demonstration.

The challenge for Osram will be finding an economical driver architecture that is capable of the individual control. The company was a partner to the Audi headlamp design, and therefore has some expertise in the area. Ryu said the team is exploring a number of potential concepts including the possibility of integrating an LED and some driver electronics in one semiconductor device. But we'd suspect that to deliver a product in the next year, Osram will have to take a more brute-force, conventional approach to the driver electronics.

There are driver ICs on the market that can control as many as three to four LEDs separately. But it would still take well over ten such ICs to realize the OmniPoint design. What you can read into the driver requirement, and the fact that there are 61 high-power LEDs in the fixture, is that the product will sell for a premium price that's commensurate with the feature set.

Osram, meanwhile, is contemplating other features that can be added to a product like the OmniPoint LED downlight, given the presence of a microcontroller (MCU) of some type that will inevitably be in the fixture and the presence of a wireless link. For example, a camera could provide the user with a live floor-plan view of a space.

There were a number of other compelling demonstrations in the Osram exhibit. One was focused on horticultural lighting and included the monochromatic LED technology that we examined in a recent feature article. The prototype luminaire on display could selectively apply deep-blue, hyper-red, far-red, and white light to plants.