On Semiconductor LED driver ICs support smart and connected luminaires

July 6, 2021
SSL product developers can easily add smart lighting functionality including space monitoring, data analytics, indoor positioning, and more using new driver ICs from On.

On Semiconductor has announced the NCL31000 and NCL31001 LED driver ICs that will simplify solid-state lighting (SSL) product development with connectivity and smart-lighting feature sets. The potential applications the driver ICs will support range to Internet of Things (IoT) applications including indoor positioning and visible light communications (VLC). Moreover, the two ICs can be combined into multiple-channel luminaire developments to support spectral tuning ranging from tunable white to full color capability.

First, before we get to the advanced features of the new driver IC pair, let’s discuss quality of light and baseline functionality such as dimming. As we’ve written repeatedly, the SSL industry has evolved into a phase where quality must exceed that of most legacy sources. The new On Semiconductor products feature a buck driver architecture and can be operated from an input-voltage range of 21.5–57V. Developers can select switching frequencies in the 44.4-kHz–1-MHz range. The ICs can use linear or pulsewidth modulation (PWM) dimming schemes all the way to off with 0.1% accuracy.

The ICs offer numerous circuit protection features that can deal with opens or shorts. There is over-temperature protection and diagnostic functions such as monitoring of currents and voltages. The driver ICs clearly support common quality and reliability requirements.

Now let’s turn to connectivity features and multi-channel designs. The typical connected luminaire obviously needs some form of network support and most such products integrate support for sensors and other devices that can enable smart-lighting and IoT applications.

The development of a smart luminaire often starts with a microcontroller (MCU). In addition to the DC-DC buck converter that powers an LED light engine, the NCL31000 integrates two additional DC-DC converters, the first of which outputs 3V to power an MCU or other low-voltage circuitry. The second is an adjustable 2.5–24V converter that can power sensor and communication subsystems. The NCL31001 only includes the 3V converter. That second member of the driver IC series would be used supplementally to the NCL31000 in multi-channel, tunable designs where the luminaire would only need a single set of sensor and connectivity functionality.

The NCL31000 architecture will support most all of the connected-lighting concepts we have covered in our pages. “There is a growing demand for lighting intelligence as LED luminaire manufacturers recognize how these features improve convenience for users while reducing operating expenses and energy consumption,” said Michel De Mey, vice president, Industrial Solutions at On Semiconductor. By supporting these features alongside market-leading efficiency and functionality, the NCL31000 and NCL31001 will open a variety of new opportunities for smart lighting systems.”

The On Semiconductor claims about VLC support, however, are what really set the new driver ICs apart from typical products on the market. The company said that modulation bandwidth around 50 kHz in the driver enables the VLC functionality. Moreover, the company said the devices will support a VLC indoor-positioning system with 30-cm accuracy. We have nor covered indoor positioning as much of late, but many still believe it will become an important IoT application that connected SSL systems can host.

We will note that the new On Semiconductor driver ICs do not integrate the latest standard for intra-luminaire communications between drivers and other subsystems. The DALI-2-enabled D4i interface is being widely used in LED drivers intended for deployment in connected-SSL scenarios. An SSL product developer could of course choose an MCU that includes the D4i interface or add it as a separate subsystem. But many D4i-based designs combine system control and sensor functionality in a separate subsystem that links directly to a D4i-enabled driver.

LEDs Magazine chief editor MAURY WRIGHT is an electronics engineer turned technology journalist, who has focused specifically on the LED & Lighting industry for the past decade.

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About the Author

Maury Wright | Editor in Chief

Maury Wright is an electronics engineer turned technology journalist, who has focused specifically on the LED & Lighting industry for the past decade. Wright first wrote for LEDs Magazine as a contractor in 2010, and took over as Editor-in-Chief in 2012. He has broad experience in technology areas ranging from microprocessors to digital media to wireless networks that he gained over 30 years in the trade press. Wright has experience running global editorial operations, such as during his tenure as worldwide editorial director of EDN Magazine, and has been instrumental in launching publication websites going back to the earliest days of the Internet. Wright has won numerous industry awards, including multiple ASBPE national awards for B2B journalism excellence, and has received finalist recognition for LEDs Magazine in the FOLIO Eddie Awards. He received a BS in electrical engineering from Auburn University.