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Making LED lighting intelligent

28 Sep 2012  | David Andeen

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Finally, smart LED lights need the ability to count watts. In a smart grid, each installation, from smart meters to voltage controllers to electric vehicle chargers, features energy measurement that gives utilities and customers accurate knowledge of power use in real time. Major lighting installations that report back their consumption provide finer granularity about building and municipal lighting situations. In this way, they can ensure that utilities only charge for the exact amount of energy used. By dimming or turning these lights off when not in use, they become responsive to user demand. Furthermore, variation in the energy consumption of specific lamps can signal a need for system repair, maintenance, or replacement. There is no doubt that with many lighting installations in areas difficult to access, optimizing maintenance will save money. To produce usable data in a smart grid, energy-measurement designs must provide a high level of accuracy across a wide current range. Furthermore, limiting or eliminating calibration time reduces overall system cost. Figure 4 shows a flexible LED lighting reference design featuring energy measurement [5]. The energy-measurement chip also provides system dimming and a DALI interface.

Many municipalities are currently installing LED lighting without intelligent features. This will generate tremendous future opportunity for retrofit modules that enhance the performance of LED lights. To be upgradeable, these systems need interfaces that permit links to the intelligent lighting system. Given the cost and volume of LEDs, merely replacing relatively new and efficient LEDs will not be cost effective. Simple interfaces, such as DALI, will allow future addition of ambient light sensors, communications, and energy measurement.

Where does this leave us? The race for industry and consumers to transition to LEDs will be a long one. It is clear that LED lighting holds the potential to transform lighting and save tremendous amounts of energy. Adding the critical elements of "intelligent" lighting—ALS, communication, and energy measurement—will make LEDs far more useful and appealing. The measurement data supplied by smart LEDs will further reduce the energy consumption of that lighting system. It will lower operational and maintenance costs. With intelligence, LEDs can reach their full potential and beat out traditional forms of lighting in the race that is already being run every day.

1. Navigant Consulting, "2010 U.S. Lighting Market Characterization," January 2012, page xii, (
2. Navigant Consulting, "Energy Savings Potential of Solid-State Lighting in General Illumination Applications 2010 to 2030," February 2010, page 36,

3. Kannisto, Marko, and Simpson, Dan, "Intelligent Lighting Controller Measures Ambient Light and Knows the Time," Smart Energy DesignLine, March 2012.
4. Robertson, Scot, "Powerline Communications Automating Street Lighting," Power Systems Design, September/October, 2011.
5. Unterkofler, Klaus, 2011 Light Fair International demonstration, Maxim Integrated Products.

About the author
David Andeen works for Maxim Integrated Products.

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