Smart lighting and the makeover of LED driver ICs

4th May 2017
Lanna Cooper


American Airlines Center near the Dallas downtown recently replaced the high-pressure sodium and metal halide light fixtures with LED luminaires in its parking garages. And that has allowed the sports and entertainment arena to reduce an estimated 60% energy consumption and $1.26m in total lifetime savings in parking garage lighting.

The nearly 100 year old lighting industry is finally showing signs of change. And at the heart of this transformation in ubiquitous lighting systems is the tiny LED driver chip. There are two notable paths to innovation in the LED driver realm.

First, LED driver ICs are bridging the gap between legacy analogue wall dimmers enabled by phase-cut triac technology and smart LED luminaires facilitated by digital control solutions. Case in point is Dialog’s dual-dim chip that allows dimming from 100% to 1% without flicker or shimmer.

Such digital solutions using PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) dimming technology can also wirelessly connect lighting systems via WiFi, Bluetooth, and ZigBee protocols. And thus facilitate new applications and novel forms of user engagement.

Second, SoC solutions are replacing the SMPS (Switch Mode Power Supply) approach to simplify LED lighting designs and reduce BOM (Bill-Of-Material) costs. For instance, the LED Direct AC drive chip from Fairchild, now part of ON Semiconductor, eliminates the need for inductance coils, electrolytic capacitors, and transformers.

That allows LED hardware to fit into tighter spaces and reduce the points of failures. It’s worth noting that in an SMPS-based LED lighting system, electrolytic capacitors are a common source of failure.

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