At the Electronica exhibition in Munich, Germany, Inova Semiconductors unveiled a new digital LED concept for automotive applications. The concept features the first LED product from Dominant Opto Technologies. It will be available beginning in the first quarter of 2017. The product will also be the first developed under the umbrella of ISELED, an open alliance created to provide a full ecosystem for the new digital LED.
The ISELED Alliance intends to develop LED-related products and solutions for the automotive market. The alliance plans these solutions to be based on an entirely new in-car LED lighting concept that it says reduces costs, simplifies control, and expands LED lighting and display solution functionality.
Robert Isele, Manager, Ambient Light, Modular System, Interior Lighting at BMW AG explains, “We have been listening to our customers, and the feedback has resoundingly indicated a demand for this new platform. We believe that we need an innovation which provides a cost-effective way of creating inspiring products of the future, which will assist with in-car information, corporate branding and communications. This new LED technology has to provide a very viable, easy-to-use solution to the in-car LED dilemma – it would have simply been impossible if every LED had to be calibrated individually.”
The founding partners of the open ISELED Alliance include Inova, NXP, Dominant Opto Technologies, TE Connectivity (early application prototypes) and Pforzheim University. Inova and the ISELED Alliance anticipate that as the market moves towards autonomously driven vehicles, lighting will become increasingly important and challenging.
Prof. Karlheinz Blankenbach, professor at Pforzheim University., said, “Not only will interior lighting play a major role in future deign, it is essential that vehicles are able to better communicate with the world around them, for instance, I see the ability of autonomous vehicles to inform pedestrians that they have been recognized as very important from a safety standpoint. Of course, we should not limit our outlook to purely automotive applications.”
Sophisticated Control Dynamics
The alliance expects that the upcoming generation of in-car lighting will typically consist of 10 to 30 LEDs mounted on a flexible strip. Each RGB LED group consisting of one red, green, and blue LED will form a ‘pixel.’ This color mixing group of LEDs at 24-bit resolution (3×8-bit) can be set to create more than 16 million colors.
Presently, individually controlling LEDs requires a microcontroller containing LED-specific data for each individual RGB LED. For this reason, such a solution is typically too expensive to be viable. Also, individual LED life parameters such as functionality and temperature cannot be feasibly captured with such a microcontroller.
Now, the vanguard IseLED concept creates an amazingly compact smart LED driver that is directly integrated with the three color LEDs into a tiny 3mm x 4mm package.
“The processing power is provided by a microcontroller from NXP, perfectly suited for the project,” said Manuel Alves, VP & GM, Product Line General Purpose and Integrated Solutions at NXP Semiconductors. “As NXP has a clear focus on system-level challenges, this IseLED concept fits right into what we’re aiming for with the recently announced S32K microcontroller product line. We are taking a new concept to market as a complete solution including hardware, software and developing the ecosystem around it.”
Inova says it is leveraging the experience it gained during the development of its APIX communications standard to build a high-speed communications protocol that enables individual addressing of each LED. According to Inova, the new protocol enables blisteringly fast, dynamic lighting effects with support for data rates up to 2 Mbit/s. Thus, the company anticipates that the straightforward scalability of the solution will enable extensive cost-savings.
Inova says its smart LED driver has a sophisticated calibration that ensures that every LED will render the same brightness and color over the full temperature range, thus guaranteeing automotive-level illumination consistency. The company says that the calibration even accepts greater LED manufacturing tolerances than are currently attainable. Now, a single microcontroller can manage an LED strip containing up to 4,096 LEDs.
A single compact package with three LEDs (red, blue, and green) consists of a driver from Inova with a bidirectional serial interface and daisy-chain capability that Dominant Opto Technologies integrated. The new package will be precalibated with the required white point from the factory.
The driver has three constant current mode (CCM) drivers to control the red, green and blue LEDs. The color mix of each RGB LED “trio” can be set with 24-bit resolution (3 x 8 bit). Furthermore, the brightness of each LED can be controlled with 12-bit resolution for temperature and manufacturing tolerance compensation.
“Our business supplies qualified LEDs to the automotive market, and so we are thrilled to have had the fortune to take part in such a prestigious, exciting and paradigm-shifting project,” commented Tek Beng Low, Senior Vice President at Dominant Opto Technologies, adding, “We see ISELED as a new boon in the automotive LED segment, and look forward to when this innovation really goes mainstream.”
Inova says that the extremely low thermal resistance of the housing, which is 30% lower than in comparable products, reduces the LED’s power consumption by cooling the LEDs. A built-in temperature sensor ensures accuracy, and non-volatile memory securely stores the calibration values of the CCM LED drivers and temperature compensation parameters.
Samples of the first prototype, an advanced multicolor smart LED driver, will be available in the first quarter of 2017 from Dominant Opto Technologies.