What Designers Need to Know about Smart Lighting Controllers and Development Platforms

As saving energy becomes an increasingly bigger design challenge, microprocessor (MPU) manufacturers are helping lighting designers accelerate the development of their smart-lighting systems through unique product or evaluation platforms. Smart lighting combined with wireless networking is considered to be one of the biggest opportunities for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Smart or intelligent lighting controls a variety of elements in both residential and commercial applications, including occupancy, movement, and amount of daylight, which helps determine when to turn the lights on/off as well as set dimming levels.

The smart-lighting market is expected to reach $6.7 billion by 2018 at an estimated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36 percent from 2013 to 2018, according to a published report from Reportlinker. Currently, the biggest application for smart lighting is commercial and industrial buildings because lighting consumes up to 40 percent of their total energy cost, according to the report. However, the study finds that residential buildings offer the largest growth potential and will grow at a high CAGR of 87.5 percent from 2013 to 2108 when compared with other applications. Another big potential application cited is outdoor lighting, which can be integrated with other monitoring systems, such as traffic signals, energy meters, parking lot lights, traffic sensors, and pollution sensors.

In fact, semiconductor manufacturers, such as STMicroelectronics (henceforth abbreviated as ST), NXP, and Texas Instruments (TI) are making it easier for designers to develop, evaluate, and prototype their smart-lighting designs with new development platforms and evaluation kits. For example, STMicroelectronics’ Masterlux platform, the STLUX385, simplifies the design of the lighting power supply and digital control of the lights via a single programmable chip, opening up new opportunities such as intelligent street LED lighting.

NXP offers complete Internet-enabled GreenChip iCFL and GreenChip iSSL smart-lighting solutions that enable IP connectivity to create advanced lighting systems that are easily controlled by IP-enabled devices including smartphones, tablets, and PCs. The supplier’s lighting portfolio consists of SMPS controllers, wireless controllers, and driver ICs. Additionally, TI’s LaunchPad products deliver an entire ecosystem that includes evaluation kits, plug-in modules, and software tools.

We’ll take a look at how these development platforms are helping engineers design their next smart-lighting system.

About a year ago, STMicroelectronics launched its first STLUX385 programmable digital controller for lighting and power-supply applications. The device was designed to enable faster development of advanced lighting systems and improve the performance of LED, fluorescent, and high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting systems. “Digitally-controlled lighting is the key to energy saving in building and outdoor lighting installations,” said ST.

What’s unique about the STLUX385 device is it integrates ST’s STM8 microprocessor core and six specially-designed peripherals, called State Machine, Event-Driven (SMED) circuits, all aimed at simplifying the lighting power supply design and digital control of the lights, which in turn shortens time to market and lowers overall cost. “The SMED is an advanced hardware-configurable state machine where state advancement is automatically triggered by internal or external events, which ensures a faster response than a conventional interrupt-driven microprocessor,” said ST. This controls the power delivered to the lighting elements.

The SMEDs are used to process external commands, such as turning lights on/off or setting the dimming level. It also can process inputs from sensors where the lighting adapts to ambient conditions. This opens up new opportunities for intelligent LED street lamps, for example, where the lights get brighter as the daylight fades and vice versa.

The latest STLUX385A includes six SMEDs with a 10 ns reaction time, four analog comparators with internally-generated and external references, an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) with an 8-channel sequencer, a hardware digital addressable lighting interface (DALI), built-in memory including 32 Kbytes program Flash, serial and I²C communication channels, and an integrated low-power STM8 microcontroller. The device is compatible in wired or wireless communications applications and supports smart-grid connectivity. DALI is a global industry standard for remote control of lighting systems.

The STLUX development environment (Figure 1) offers everything a designer needs to start designing with the STLUX385A, which is the first in a family of lighting controllers that feature the company’s unique digital-control technique. The platform provides demo boards, a graphical configurator, software libraries, and a compiler.

Figure 1: STMicroelectronics’ STLUX development-environment platform provides demo boards, a graphical configurator, software libraries, and a compiler to start designing with the STLUX385A lighting controller. (Courtesy of STMicroelectronics)

With the STLUX development environment, the STLUX385A can be controlled via a serial line and a console. The graphical SMED configurator is said to simplify design, “targeting maximum efficiency at full load with minimum energy consumption in idle conditions,” according to the company. It also delivers designs that provide high-quality dimming with high-current-control precision.

Designers can get themselves up to speed with the STLUX385A device and SMED functionality using an STLUX385 evaluation board. For example, the GUI generates the SMED configuration for the target application, and the external pins are used to insert SMED events and capture the SMED-controlled PWM clock. The application circuit also can be driven directly from the product-evaluation board. The board also provides a dedicated UART TTL-to-USB cable to communicate with the STLUX385A and the serial interface can extend the STLUX communication capabilities via a Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or power-line modem. The STEVAL-ILL068V1 board can be powered using an external power supply, a USB TTL cable, or the SWIM interface.

Designed to enable new types of lighting controls and to manage energy consumption, NXP’s GreenChip smart-lighting solution combines wireless IP connectivity, energy-efficient lighting, and low-standby power in a compact solution. The GreenChip smart-lighting solution provides a complete lighting portfolio that includes high-efficiency power converters, CFL, LEDs, and TL drivers together with IEEE802.15.4-compatible single-chip transceivers and microcontrollers.

The GreenChip solution supports both main lighting software stacks, including ZigBee LightLink (a standard for residential applications) and JenNet-IP, a 6LoWPAN standard targeting low-power IEEE 802.15.4-based networking for residential and industrial applications. The JenNet-IP software stack allows for every light to have its own IP address for advanced lighting systems that can be controlled by IP-enabled devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and PCs. The network software provides the ultra-low-power wireless connectivity for the GreenChip iSSL and GreenChip iCFL modules.

GreenChip smart-lighting solutions (Figure 2) consist of high-performance chipsets featuring very efficient and dimmable smart-lamp drivers such as the UBA2027, SSL21081, and SSL21083. It also includes the TEA1721, an ultra-low-power standby-supply controller with a no-load capability of just 10 mW.

Figure 2: NXP’s GreenChip smart-lighting solution delivers Internet-enabled, energy-efficient lighting networks, supporting JenNet-IP networks. The platform also supports ZigBee SE and ZigBee Light Link networks. (Courtesy of NXP Semiconductors)

NXP also offers the JN5161 wireless microcontroller supporting RF4CE or IEEE802.15.4 for remote control or wireless-sensor applications. The device features an enhanced 32-bit RISC processor with 64 kB embedded Flash, 8 kB RAM, and 4 kB EEPROM memory, a 2.4 GHz IEEE802.15.4-compliant transceiver and a mix of analog and digital peripherals that support a wide range of applications.

The JN5161 wireless microcontroller can be used in a variety of applications, including lighting and home automation, smart energy, and energy harvesting. The device supports JenNet-IP, ZigBee SE, and ZigBee Light Link networks.

For evaluating digital control in LED lighting applications, designers may want to look at TI’s LaunchPad evaluation kits (Figure 3). The LaunchPad microcontroller evaluation kit is another way to speed up your LED lighting designs. The ecosystem offers a selection of LaunchPad evaluation kits that designers can match to BoosterPack plug-in modules. The ecosystem also offers several software tools.

Figure 3: TI’s C2000 LaunchPad combined with the LED BoosterPack helps designers get up to speed quickly with real-time digital-control techniques for LED lighting applications. (Courtesy of Texas Instruments)

For LED lighting, designers can pair the C2000 LaunchXL-F28027 evaluation kit with the BoostXL-C2KLED booster module. The C2000 Piccolo LaunchPad helps designers with real-time control programming on the C2000 Piccolo microcontrollers. It’s based on the Piccolo TMS320F28027 with features including 64 KB on-board flash, 8 PWM channels, eCAP, 12-bit ADC, I²C, SPI, and UART. The C2000 LED BoosterPack is aimed at helping designers learn about real-time digital-control techniques and LED lighting. It demonstrates the control of three boost converters to drive three LED strings. Interface options include capacitive touch control using an MSP430 and MSP430 Cap Touch BoosterPack as well as PC GUI applications.


In the electronics industry where everything is measured in terms of how fast your company can deliver its latest innovations, starting out with product development platforms and evaluation boards and kits like the ones offered by NXP, ST, and TI can do two things: speed up time to market and reduce overall costs. This is achieved by simplifying the design and making it easier for designers to innovate. This is particularly true in the smart-lighting market where one of the big drivers is wireless connectivity in the home and in buildings as OEMs put together their IoT strategies.

For more information on the parts discussed in this article, use the links provided to access product information pages on the Hotenda website.