The LED Interior Lighting Craze, Part 3: Intelligent LED Control

I have been observing the LED lighting transition in buildings and homes for several years now and realized that there are a lot of subjects that pertain to engineering and in particular analog engineering. The LED Interior Lighting Craze, Part 1 was an introduction to the industry as it currently exists. The LED Interior Lighting Craze, Part 2 focuses on reliability. This third part is on LED lighting intelligence. This blog could easily be five pages long however I’ll focus on the highlights. There are 14 references that go into further detail in addition to the references for the two previous articles in this series.

Some may say that intelligent lighting can be traced to that faddish 80’s product The Clapper while others may argue that the third headlight in the center of the front of a Tucker automobile might have been first. This headlight moved in the direction that the front wheels were steered much the same as today’s BMWs. “The most recognizable feature of the Tucker '48, a directional third headlight (known as the “Cyclops Eye”), would activate at steering angles of greater than 10 degrees to light the car's path around corners.” My research found that intelligent lighting has come a long ways since these two products.

Intelligent lighting has exploded with LED’s due to the low current and low voltage operation when compared to other technologies. Digital signal levels now offer options in control as well as driving LEDs. In many ways this is good as new circuits and controllers have been developed. In other ways it has caused problems such as how to retrofit current systems with triac or thyristor controls. When MS Word puts an angry underline under these terms one can tell just how out of date they have become. There are some specific ICs available for these retrofits from International Rectifier and Microchip, as well as an Application Note from Littelfuse that explains some methods for adapting LEDs to triac and thyristor control.

Although many chip makers such as Maxim Integrated are in the game, LED lighting intelligence is no longer limited to analog control ICs. Both Texas Instruments and Microchip have created guides for microprocessor control. The Maxim Integrated article is interesting as it uses a PIC controller for regulating street lights along with a Zigbee module. The Microchip application note on the other hand seems to address every protocol short of Bluetooth including ZigBee Protocol, MiWi Protocol. MiWi, P2P Protocol, Wi-Fi Interface, USB Interface, Ethernet Interface, CAN and LIN Protocols.

Moving up the line to computer and software control, Redwood Systems has taken things a bit further. The LED’s power originates from the Ethernet cable and not the AC line. The lights have a number of sensors incorporated that sense movement and provide occupancy data. All of this is fed back into a software package that provides a dashboard with usage data. This data is then further applied to enhance the intelligence of the energy usage through modeling and prediction. Lights in rooms or areas that are not occupied either shut off entirely or are reduced to 20% of total brightness.

I found a top level discussion of intelligent lighting that shows incentives and components titled “Controls for LED Lighting”. The workshop’s objective is to “Learn how to achieve the greatest energy savings through the simultaneous deployment of all lighting control strategies via digital wired and wireless lighting control systems”. The document illustrates the design process as well as building control and lighting control strategies.

There are a lot of articles dedicated to intelligent lighting including this one from a website called The Crunch Network. The article does a good job of explaining how the industry will expand resulting in more data loads for companies like Cisco and Qualcomm. Some are calling for lighting intelligence to rival smart phones while seeing the market as endless. With all of this additional data being shoved on wires and the airwaves, it remains puzzling why startups that can significantly increase the transmission speed and the data rate can’t get dollar one in funding while every software company doing incremental changes gets 2 or 3 mil.

The future is bright for LED lighting (as always, pun intended). As you walk down the grocery isle and your movement triggers the lights in a display case, imagine how engineering has advanced to a point beyond hearing clapping throughout the store in order to control the lights. That’s so 80’s.


  1. The Clapper commercial 1984” youtube video, MrClassicAds1980s.
  2. Tucker 48” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  3. Adding intelligence to LED lighting” By: David Andeen, Director of Applications, Maxim Integrated, APPLICATION NOTE 5383. A similar version of this article appears on EDN, June 12, 2012
  4. Texas Instruments Bringing intelligence to LED lighting applications” Patrick Carner Marketing Manager Texas Instruments White Paper SPRY211, 2012 Texas Instruments Incorporated
  5. LED Lighting Design Guide, Adding Intelligence to Lighting Applications” Microchip, Summer 2010.
  6. Introducing the Redwood intelligent lighting network from CommScope
  7. Commscope Redwood Systems Demo
  8. Controls for LED Lighting, DOE SSL Workshop” July 19, 2012 – Pittsburgh, PA Rick Miller, PE, LC, LEED AP, RNM Engineering, Inc. San Luis Obispo, CA
  9. The LED Interior Lighting Craze, Part 1
  10. The LED Interior Lighting Craze, Part 2
  11. International Rectifier
  12. CL8800 Sequential Linear LED Driver.”
  13. Controlling LED Lighting Using Triacs and Quadracs” Littelfuse Application Note, February 2013
  14. How Intelligent Lighting Is Ushering In The Internet Of Buildings” Posted Dec 20, 2015 on THE CRUNCH NETWORK by Brian Chemel (@bchemel)
  15. In LEDs, some see an intelligence to rival smartphones” David Ferris, E&E reporter EnergyWire: Tuesday, December 15, 2015.
  16. Instantaneous Tech Website

11 comments on “The LED Interior Lighting Craze, Part 3: Intelligent LED Control

  1. fejohnst0
    October 31, 2016

    Yup, while LED reliability may be up in the 50K hours range, the rest of the driver circuitry may significantly reduce the longevity.

    Although I do question the 50K hour LED lifetime. My experience has seen significantly more failures. I built my own low voltage outdoor lighting using a simple 2 tranisitor current source supplying about 18ma to a string of 4 LEDs. I've got 50 of these circuits (two to a “bulb”, 200 LEDs total). They have been running for 3 years (roughly 9000 hours). I've had to replace 10-20% of the LEDs. Every failure has had the same symptom, intermittent. I suspect wire bonds on the LED.


  2. Benefiter
    November 1, 2016

    Thank you, I've been seeking for info about this subject matter for ages and yours is the best I have discovered so far.

  3. Effective-Technical-Writing dot com
    November 1, 2016

    Thank you for the compliment.  This is truly a market in progress so I'm sure new information will pop up sporadicaly.  

  4. Effective-Technical-Writing dot com
    November 1, 2016

    Thank you for your input.  I'm going to look into LED construction and terms as future blogs.  I think there is a lot to be said about thermals with all of the heat sinking products have.

  5. ted90
    November 1, 2016

    found a lot of useful and interesting information, thank you guys information, I am pleased to join your community!

  6. tomysong
    November 2, 2016

    I just couldn't depart your site before suggesting that I really enjoyed the usual info a person supply to your visitors? Is going to be back steadily in order to check up on new posts

  7. Effective-Technical-Writing dot com
    November 3, 2016

    Thank you for the kind compliments.  Planet Analog created the post and the opportunity for bloggers to choose subjects related to analog engineering.  I give them all the credit.

  8. Effective-Technical-Writing dot com
    November 6, 2016

    Thank you for the compliments.  More to come on LEDs as well as many other topics in technology and analog circuitry!


  9. Chrestina88
    November 6, 2016

    Great post and reading website when i come out here i am really pleased with the information you always provided.

  10. Effective-Technical-Writing dot com
    November 9, 2016

    Thank you for your input.  I have other aspects of LED lighting to cover as well as a variety of topics beyond LEDs.  I really do appreciate the compliments and seek to write material that will interest you in the future.  Most engineering subjects are possible to discuss so throw a few out there and I'll see if there is a story associated with them…..or at the very least, the ability to summarize the existing information.

  11. jermaiinam
    January 6, 2017

    Thanks for the post related to LED Display and other information. 

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