IST Launches first Visible Light Communication (VLC) LED Drivers for Indoor Positioning

iDrive® Force 12 Hybrid+

July 2017 will witness the launch of the iDrive® Force 12 Hybrid+, one of the world’s most advanced LED drivers, incorporating Visible Light Communication (VLC) capabilities to enable luminaire manufacturers and system integrators to create their own high precision, indoor location- based marketing solutions.

iDrive Force 12 Hybrid + VLC LED Driver for Indoor Positioning

The new Hybrid+ LED output stage has taken four production iterations and nearly a decade to perfect, in order to provide unprecedented levels of smooth, flicker-free dimming with seamless integration of optical VLC beacon technology.

The iDrive® Force 12 Hybrid+ builds on IST’s worldwide patent portfolio and extensive know-how to deliver the first open platform and cost-effective indoor positioning VLC drivers to enable the lighting industry to capture a large section of the burgeoning positioning market, as outlined below:

  • Mobile Context and Location Services market will reach $61.90bn in revenue by 2022, rising from an estimated $11.99bn in 2014. CAGR of 26.6%.
  • eMarketeer predicts over $15bn will be spent on location-targeted mobile adverts by 2018.
  • More people are walking around with location service-enabled devices in their pockets than ever before, driven by the global proliferation of   smartphones, predicted to hit over 2.5 billion users worldwide in 2019.
  • Over two-thirds of revenue will be driven through highly targeted and contextually aware ad-supported apps.
  • According to Strategy Analytics, people spend 80-90% of their time indoors.

VLC-based LED luminaires can be deployed for many different applications and significantly increase the value proposition of lighting within buildings. However, indoor location-VLC based marketing solutions are proving increasingly attractive in the retail sector, due to the positional accuracy achieved compared to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon technology.

Using VLC technology (also known as broadcast Li-Fi) combined with Wi-Fi and mobile sensor-based positioning mitigates the need for capital expenditure and installation costs of BLE beacon based positioning systems, whilst increasing positional resolution to less than 0.5m.

Figure 1: Comparison of range and accuracy of positioning technologies

Several leading lighting companies have already launched proprietary VLC based positioning systems. However, the technology has proved to be extremely expensive and not readily available in the wider market, thus limiting competition and choice for end-users.

As a leading provider of iDrive® LED driver technology, IST decided to focus its technical resources and know-how to create an open platform VLC solution that enables literally anyone to create their own lighting-enabled location and positioning solutions, without the need to invest millions of dollars developing their own LED driver platform.

The iDrive® Force 12 Hybrid+ will enable the creation of feature-rich retail positioning systems to achieve:

  • Personal guidance and routing
  • Geofencing and analytics to determine hot spots
  • Hyper local marketing of offers to consumers
  • Anonymized location tracking

Utilizing the camera and other sensors within standard mobile devices, including tablets or phones, the position of the device can be decoded from the signal sent by the luminaire.

The market specification requirements are very challenging for VLC-based LED drivers, including:

  • Deep dimming capability to below 0.01%
  • Very high efficiency output stages (>97%)
  • No electrolytic capacitors to improve lifetime and remove ESR failure
  • The ability to turn VLC signals on and off without any visible flicker
  • VLC must operate even when luminaires are dimmed to low levels (<5%)
  • Ability to work with any LED luminaire with a Vf from 1 to 48V and If from 100mA to 1600mA
  • Utilise license-free, open source control protocols to communicate data. 
  • Must be easy to integrate VLC drivers into traditional or PoE and PaE solutions
  • Must not add significant costs to Ethernet-based lighting solutions

Despite these challenges, the IST team used all of its design experience to overcome them and develop the iDrive® Force 12 Hybrid+ solution.

In partnership with Artistic License Holdings Ltd, IST worked jointly to create an open VLC protocol, which has been incorporated in the ALH Art-Net control protocol and allows a simple way to send VLC data to any luminaire.

IST is building a VLC ecosystem with partners to enable end-users to acquire turn-key solutions for a range of applications. One such partner is Canadian company Dent Electric, which is enhancing their current IoT solutions to include VLC positioning to allow end-users to gain real-time opinion and feedback through data analytics across various IT platforms, with initial focus on retail and sports venue analytics.

Other possible VLC applications include:

  • Automotive – vehicle to vehicle communications
  • Near-field communications
  • Security – 2nd user authentication
  • Paging systems
  • Sea-based solutions, e.g. underwater and communications between ships 
  • Digital signage

For more information on VLC positioning or to order your Force 12 Hybrid+ then please contact the sales team on +44(0)121 362 1810 or email to find your nearest distributor.