NFC programming for LEDs using a PWM output to control analog LED-drivers: Page 2 of 5

September 04, 2019 //By Dr. Qi Zhu
NFC programming
In the LED market, more and more LED power suppliers to offer two novel functions: near-field communication (NFC) programming and constant lumen output (CLO). The NFC programming function is designed to replace the labor-intensive “plug-in resistor” current setting method to improve the flexibility across the value chain.

What makes NFC attractive for an LED-driver use case compared to other wireless communication technologies? Its unique characteristics, such as:

  • The nature of the short-distance communication ensures that only objects at a defined physical position are contacted and programmed. This feature is highly beneficial in the manufacturing environment, and can significantly reduce the complexity of the identification, and the authentication process.

  • In a system that consists of an NFC reader and an NFC tag, the tag can operate passively (without an external power supply). The power is harvested from the RF field sent by the NFC reader. Thus, an object equipped with an NFC tag can be programmed in the assembly line without the need to connect to a power supply. It is a huge advantage that can improve operational efficiency.

  • Operating in the globally available 13.56 MHz unlicensed radio frequency ISM band, and following well-defined standards allows for large-scale global roll-outs.

  • Its low data rate (106 to 424 kbit/s) and low frequency (13.56 MHz) reduce the complexity of the hardware design. A low cost printed PCB antenna is sufficient for the application. Compared to other wireless communication technologies such as BLE, its hardware cost is relatively low.

Apart from technical advantages, there may be other benefits for all stakeholders across the LED-lighting value chain. For instance, a LED-driver vendor can set the product current level automatically in the manufacturing line to save labor cost, and even adjust it just before shipment to any warehouse worldwide.

It provides supply chain flexibility and can save substantial logistic costs. The output tolerance level of an LED driver can also be significantly improved after taking in-production calibration. More important, your product gives more freedom and flexibility to your customers. Manufacturers can easily program the LED driver to match with the LED module. This makes it easier to change the vendor of the LED modules. Also, the light output can be more precisely controlled since the stepwise adjustment using plug-in resistor is replaced by a continuous adjustment using NFC programming. Logistic complexity – triggered by varying national standards - can also be reduced by doing shipment-destination-based NFC configuration.

At last but not at least, additional services are made possible at the installation stage. It is easy to set up any tailor-made lighting configuration that perfectly matches the user’s specific needs. Now let’s have a look at how NFC function is traditionally implemented in lighting systems.

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