Jan 24, 2018

Infrared LEDs – Enabling New Realities

Category: Illumination

By Noman Rangwala, Director, Business Development, Specialty Business Unit

As expected, CES 2018 was a must-attend technology event for innovators in any market, and for the team at Lumileds there were a number of key trends and themes that are worth keeping in mind for the coming year. Here are some that we are following very closely:

Infrared Light is Everywhere
During CES 2017, many novel applications using infrared (IR) LEDs were introduced. There was a lot of buzz around the potential of IR LEDs and how they would enable a new way of life. And, at CES 2018, the applications broke out and went mainstream.

VR vs. AR
One of the key trends at CES was the transition from virtual reality to augmented reality. Now, we not only experience and interact with an alternative world, but we can experience and interact with the real world in parallel with the alternative world thanks to IR LEDs. At CES, Google Glasses and Head Mounted Displays were everywhere and so were the players, soaked in the warm glow of the IR LEDs. The IR LEDs illuminate the area around the person, allowing an IR sensitive camera to capture the movements of person such as their hands, feet, position etc.

On the heels of the IPhone-X’s 3D camera announcement in Sept. 2017, there were a set of new module makers offering standard 3D sensing modules for integration into “your platform of choice.” The module makers were offering these solutions as viable alternatives to the RealSense and the Kinect. An eco-system of applications providers were co-located at these booths showing use cases. The 3D-sensing module offers the user the additional dimension of depth in addition to the 2D image, which is critical in AR/VR applications.

Below a picture of Lumileds very own, Olivier Meilhon, enjoying the augmented reality experience at the show.

Protecting Your Smart Homes
We are living in a time where many are anxious due to recent data breaches and hacks. In the smart home market place at CES, connectivity and security were the key themes. Many of the exhibitors showed internet/cloud connected surveillance cameras with night vision. These smart cameras not only captured the scene, they were able to detect the presence of people while ignoring other objects, like animals and/or cars. They recognized faces and alerted their owners on a presence of a stranger near the property, while ignoring the children playing in the backyard. Once again, IR LEDs made this possible. The smart algorithms can only work their magic when the camera can see clearly, and a camera can see clearly only when there is light.

In the world of smartphones, the push for a bezel-free display took a new twist, Synaptics and Vivo announced a bezel-free design using an OLED display and an in-display fingerprint sensor, breathing new life into the “proclaimed for dead” fingerprint sensing segment. Samsung and Apple have chosen a different path; a “non-touch approach” via IRIS scan and facial recognition.

The debate continues – will the IPhone X’s 3D camera and the captivating “emoji” feature lead to the demise of the IRIS and fingerprint detection? Apple’s 3D sensing camera does have the ability to capture new applications where we the users come to terms with the new reality of 3D. Our money is on– IR light.


In other areas of IR applications, there was a demonstration of measurement of blood glucose via IR light. For those who have to endure the constant prick of the needles, this noninvasive approach promises a new way of life. There were a couple of material sensing applications, which have the potential for how we shop for groceries.

A large section of the CES show as dedicated to automotive, and self-driving vehicles were the talk of the town. Please read our blog on the future of smart cities that highlights the trends for automotive applications from CES.