Joint LED Dimming and High Capacity Visible Light

Communication by Overlapping PPM

Bo Bai
School of Electronics & Information
Northwestern Polytechnical University
Xi’an, China
iambaibo@gmail.com
Zhengyuan Xu
Department of Electrical Engineering
University of California, Riverside
Riverside, USA
dxu@ee.ucr.edu
Yangyu Fan
School of Electronics & Information
Northwestern Polytechnical University
Xi’an, China
fan_yangyu@sina.com


Abstract— Piggybacking communication by illumination LEDs
provides additional valuable functionality to LED lighting
fixtures as optical communication transmitters at little cost.
However, joint dimming control and high data-rate
communication requires proper supporting protocols under the
bandwidth limitation of LEDs. This paper applies overlapping
pulse position modulation (OPPM) to achieve high capacity
communication and flexible dimming. It then analyzes both
illumination and communication performance in terms of
dimming range, flicker severity index, cutoff data rate, and
power and bandwidth efficiencies, all comparing against OOK
and variable PPM modulation schemes. The results show the best
performance using OPPM, making it an ideal candidate
technology for emerging visible light communication.
Keywords- VLC, dimming, flicker severity, cutoff data rate,
power and bandwidth efficiencies
I. INTRODUCTION
Due to the rapid development in the state-of-art solid-state
lighting devices, especially in the high brightness light emitting
diodes (LEDs) and their proven communication capabilities in
the visible light wavelength range, visible light communication
(VLC) has attracted much attention and become a highly
potential and valuable method for wireless communication. A
VLC system can transmit high speed information as it provides
lighting in certain space. For the consideration of both
illumination and communication, many modulation methods
have been proposed, such as the inverted pulse position
modulation (I-PPM), subcarrier inverted pulse position
modulation (SC-I-PPM) [1], pulse width modulation (PWM),
changing modulation depth [2], and variable pulse position
modulation (VPM) [3]. Those communication methods tackle
the flickering and dimming control issue more or less.
However, no quantified illumination criteria were suggested
like the flicker severity effect. The bandwidth limitation of
commercial white LEDs on was not fully addressed either.
Motivated by the high data rate demand under the
constraint of low bandwidth illumination LEDs at several mega
hertz, we propose to adapt the overlapping pulse position
modulation (OPPM) method [4]-[6] for communication in this
paper while minimizing the flickering effects and achieving
dimming control via signal amplitude. We show that OPPM
has a wide dimming range, low flicker effect in addition to a
high bit rate, at a price of a variable current driver for the LED
and more precise receiver synchronization. We first show the
OPPM method model in Section II. In Section III, we examine
the non-return-to-zero on-off key modulation (NRZ-OOK),
VPM and OPPM signal illumination performances including
the dimming range and flicker severity index. We then discuss
the communication performances like the cutoff bit rate
capacity, power and bandwidth efficiencies in Section IV.
Finally we conclude the paper in Section V.
II. DIMMING AND MODULATION BY OPPM
Suppose there is a limitation to transmit a very narrow
pulse due to the LED modulation bandwidth while there is a
need to increase the data rate over what a single pulse can
accommodate. OPPM allows pulses to overlap when they
represent different information such that each pulse carries
increased amount of information on the average [4].

Figure 1. OPPM symbol with N = 3, Q = 2.
Under OPPM [4], a symbol interval of T seconds is divided
into NQ subintervals each of τ duration referred to as a slot in
this paper, where Q is the number of non-overlapping pulse
positions within the symbol interval, and N is referred to as the
index of overlap representing the number of slots covered by
the pulse. The pulse has duration T'=Nτ seconds. Different data
is represented by the positions of a pulse in one of the first J
time slots t
k
=(k-1)τ, k= 1, 2, …, J; here t
1
=0 is the start of a
symbol interval. It is clear that J is related to N and Q by
J = N (Q-1)+1. (1)
This paper was supported in part by the MRPI program of the University
of California and the China Scholar Council. The work of Bo Bai was
performed during his visiting period at the University of California, Riverside,
USA.
2010 19th Annual Wireless and Optical Communications Conference (WOCC 2010)
71
Q will be the alphabet size of the traditional binary PPM signal
set when N equals 1, corresponding to the non-overlapping
case. Fig. 1 shows an OPPM signal with N=3, Q=2. Thus J=4.
Considering the illumination, we choose the pulse intensity
as the major parameter for the light dimming control, with
possible combination of time sharing of different intensity
levels to realize a particular dimming level. If the LED driving
current is continuously adjustable, then any dimming level can
be directly achieved. However, if only finite states of driving
current are available, we propose to realize dimming control
via proper time sharing of two consecutive intensity levels. A
similar idea appeared in VPM in the IEEE standard proposal
[3] where dimming control is achieved by pulse width
modulation (PWM) in terms of duty cycle of the pulses and
data modulation is based on 2PPM. A 50% duty VPM is
equivalent to 2PPM.As an example shown in Fig. 2, binary
OPPM signal has four possible intensity levels. To achieve a
dimming level of 60% intensity, one can use 60% of time at the
50% intensity level and 40% of time at the 75% intensity level.
This combination provides an average dimming level of 50%.
In general, two consecutive intensity levels close to the desired
dimming level need to be selected to ensure minimum intensity
variation across time, and thus minimal frame flickering. Also
dwell time in each level must be short enough to avoid
flickering, i.e., alternating two states at a high speed. The time
sharing weight x for intensity level L
i
and weight 1÷x for a
lower intensity level L
i-1
can be found by solving a simple
equation xL
i
+(1÷x)L
i-1
=L
d
, where L
d
is the desired dimming
level. The x is found to be (L
d
÷L
i-1
)/( L
i
÷L
i-1
). In the example
above, L
d
=60%, L
i
=75%, L
i-1
=50%. Then
x=0.1/0.25=0.4=40%.

Figure 2. OPPM signal intensity states.
We can observe that the OPPM symbols have a wide and
constant pulse width independent of dimming levels. This
translates into a small and fixed detection bandwidth required
for the optical receiver at different dimming levels, different
from VPM which requires variable pulse width for dimming.
Consequently, the received noise reduces and the signal noise
ratio (SNR) improves. On the other hand, the transmitter
requires an LED driver at a higher complexity. Meanwhile, the
receiver needs to be able to deal with possible inter-symbol
interference and demands high precision synchronization.
III. ILLUMINATION PERFORMANCE
There are various criteria for assess illumination
performance, such as the minimum average illuminance,
minimum color rendering, maximum unified glare rating
(UGR), minimum flicker severity index and so on. Here we
only focus on the dimming control and flicker effect in a VLC
system as others like the minimum color rendering and UGR
would be of interest to the LED manufactures and are beyond
the scope of this work.
Dimming range
Dimming range is the lighting brightness range of an
illuminant. Listed in Tab. I, the OPPM signal at a fixed
intensity level has a basic dimming range from 0% to
N/NQ=1/Q, the ratio of pulse occupied percentage of time in
one symbol interval. If we assume the OOK signal uses its
pulse width to control the dimming level, then OOK dimming
level lies in the range from 0% to 50%. The VPM dimming
range can span from 0% to 100%. Although the OPPM signal
cannot reach a full brightness as a result of its symbol structure,
the upper limit 1/Q will approach 100% as the value of Q
decreases close to unity, such as when the pulse is very wide
and the number of slots within the pulse is large (NQ=10,
N=9). In fact, when the dimming level is set to 0% or 100%, it
will be impossible for information transmission.
TABLE I. BASIC DIMMING RANGE

OOK VPM OPPM
Min. 0% 0% 0%
Max. 50% 100% 1/Q
Flicker severity index
Flicker effect is also a basic performance metric in
illumination, which is caused by the luminance change with
time. The human eye is very sensitive to light flicker but
irritation depends on lighting conditions and the individual [7].
The International Electrotechnial Commission (IEC) has
published design specifications for a flickermeter, including the
lamp-eye-brain chain model and an on-line statistical
evaluation of the instantaneous flicker level (IFL). The flicker
severity index is the representative value of short-term flicker
severity in 10 minutes intervals and long-term flicker severity
in 2 hours which reduces the amount of data considerably and
simplifies comparisons to limit values.
For a time domain signal, the cumulative probability p(l)
that a signal level l is exceeded during a period of time T is
defined as
( )
l
T
p l
T
=
, (2)
where T
l
is the total time when signal level is no less than l.
A graphical representation of p(l) reflects the distribution of
magnitudes and is referred to as cumulative probability
function (CPF). A number of gauge points among an
observation periods of 10 minutes on the CPF curve are used to
derive the short-term flicker severity as [7]
ST i xi
i
P k P =
¿
, (3)
2010 19th Annual Wireless and Optical Communications Conference (WOCC 2010)
72
where k
i
is the i-th weighting coefficient and P
xi
is the CPF
curve level exceeding x
i
% over the observation period. In
practice, after samples have been collected for the observation
time of 10 minutes, the thresholds are set to correspond to
percentiles – i.e. as long as CPF has exceeded 0.1%, 1%, 3%,
10% and 50% within the observation time of 10 minutes, P
ST
is
calculated according to the formula [7]
0.1 1 3 10 50
0.1 3.14 5.25 6.57 28 8
ST
P P P P P P = + + + + . (4)
The long-term flicker severity index is calculated by several
successive P
ST
values of long observed time duration as [8]
3
3
1
1
M
LT STi
i
P P
M
=
=
¿
, (5)
where M is the number of P
ST
periods within the observation
time of P
LT
, e.g., 12 P
ST
(10 minutes) measurements would be
required to calculate the 2 hour-long time duration P
LT
.
In the ideal condition where there exist only idles and
pulses without any forms of noise, the proportion of the total
pulse time to the observation period will be fixed for a certain
duty cycle D
C
. The proportion of OPPM signal is N/(NQ)=1/Q,
0.5D
C
and D
C
for OOK and VPM signal respectively. As the
signal levels are set uniformly among the range from 0, that
means all dark, to the highest illuminance during the
observation period, the cumulative probability p will be
constant and same for any signal levels when dimming level is
fixed, and can be calculated as:
0.5
OOK C
p D = , (6)

VPM C
p D = , (7)
1/
OPPM
p Q = . (8)

Figure 3. Long-term flicker severity vs. duty cycle.
Fig. 3 shows the ideal long-term flicker severity of OOK,
VPM and OPPM (NQ=10, N=9) signals with dimming levels
changing from 90% to 10%, (that is duty cycle changing from
10% to 90%), and the 0.65 flicker severity curve is the limited
value in the standard IEC 61000-3-3 [9]. We can see that the
OPPM signal has the best flicker performance, followed by
VPM and OOK. The VPM signal flicker severity value can
reach the standard only if the dimming level is no less than
about 30% while OOK signal cannot ever reach the standard,
For the OPPM signal, the flicker severity value is 0.525 for
any dimming levels, which is far less than the limited value.
We can also notice that the 90% duty cycle VPM signal has
the same flicker performance as OPPM. But the flicker
severity of OPPM signal is invariant with changing different
dimming levels when Q is fixed.
IV. COMMUNICATION PERFORMANCE
As a modulation method of data communication, OPPM
has already been well studied [10],[11] for a long time in the
radio frequency (RF) range and the wired fiber channel
communication system. Typically OPPM is combined with
some coding techniques for improved error probability
performance. Now considering the VLC system as well as the
illumination system, one concerned issue is a proper
modulation method for the pulse width limited lighting source.
We analyze the uncoded OPPM system performance and
compare with OOK and VPM, while leaving other relevant
studies in the future.
Cutoff Data Rate Capacity
For a bandwidth limited communication channel, the cutoff
data rate capacity, which shows the maximum data rate
theoretically available for the communication channel, remains
an important parameter. This is also the same case for a VLC
system since the state-of-art LED response time is typically
several hundred nanoseconds. This time is much longer than
the current electric processing block requires, and has become
a bottleneck for a high data rate VLC system.

Figure 4. Cutoff data rate capacity vs. dimming levels.
In a response time limited communication system, that
means a pulse width and bandwidth limited channel, assume
2010 19th Annual Wireless and Optical Communications Conference (WOCC 2010)
73
the maximum bandwidth is B
L
(B
L
= 1/t
r
) where t
r
is the
minimum lighting source response time. The cutoff data rate
for OOK, VPM and OPPM become
0.5
OOK L C
R B D = , (9)

VPM L C
R B D = , (10)

2
log ( ( 1) 1)
OPPM L
N Q
R B
Q
÷ +
=
, (11)
where D
C
is the current duty cycle which depends on the
brightness dimming level.
Fig. 4 shows the cutoff data rate capacities of OOK, VPM
and OPPM (NQ=10, N=9) systems with dimming levels
changing from 10% to 90% while the maximum bandwidth B
L

equals 1MHz. We can see the OPPM system provides the
highest data rate and remains constant (9Mbps) for all dimming
levels. The VPM system has an increased data rate with duty
cycle, at a rate faster than the OOK system. The VPM system
can reach its highest data rate (9Mbps) at 90% duty cycle and
the level is the same with OPPM. But OOK can only reach
2.5Mbps at 50% duty cycle (the maximum duty cycle
considered valid).
Power & Bandwidth Efficiency
In an additive white Gaussian noise (AWGN) system, with
a limited average signal power P, the minimum Euclidean
distances between maximum-likelihood (ML) detected
received signals for OOK, VPM and OPPM signal are [11]
2 /
OOK C b
d P D R = , (12)
2 / 0.5
2(1 ) / 0.5
C b C
VPM
C b C
P D R D
d
P D R D
¦
s
¦
=
´
÷ >
¦
¹
, (13)
2 log2( ( 1) 1)
OPPM C
b
Q N Q
d D P
NR
÷ +
= , (14)
where R
b
is the bit rate.
For a given bit error rate (BER) requirement, the required
power for OOK, VPM and OPPM signals are [11]
1
0
/ ( )
OOK b C
P N R D Q BER
÷
= , (15)
1
0
1
0
2 / ( ) 0.5
2 / (1 ) ( ) 0.5
b C C
VPM
b C C
N R D Q BER D
P
N R D Q BER D
÷
÷
¦
s
¦
=
´
÷ >
¦
¹
, (16)
1 0
2
2
( )
log ( ( 1) 1)
b
OPPM C
NN R
P D Q BER
Q N Q
÷
=
÷ +
, (17)
where N
0
is the white Gaussian noise power spectral density,
and Q
-1
(.) is the inversed Q-function.
Next we study the power requirement for different
bandwidth requirement (relative to data rate). According to the
analysis in cutoff data rate capacity by (9)-(11), we first find
the ratio B/R
b
as a function of duty cycle for OOK and VPM
and a function of system parameters for OPPM. We then
compute the ratio of the required power (15)-(17) over the
power corresponding to 50% OOK. Notice that the terms Q
-
1
(BER) and R
b
will be cancelled during the process. Fig. 5,
shows the results for OOK, VPM and OPPM (NQ=10, N=9)
signals with N
0
= 1×10
-4
. The horizontal axis represents the
required bandwidth divided by bit rate, while vertical axis
represents the logarithmic result of required power to OOK
signal power at 50% duty cycle. There are 9 points on each
curve for duty cycles increasing from 10% to 90% at a step size
of 10%. We can see that the trend of power requirement varies
with modulation formats. As the duty cycle increases, the
required power of OOK signal decreases dramatically and
monotonically. For VPM, the required power first decreases
with increased duty cycle till 50%, and then increases rapidly.
But the required power for OPPM decreases rapidly with duty
cycle and vertically at one fixed bandwidth rate ratio. As far as
bandwidth requirement is concerned, OPPM requires the
minimum bandwidth that is insensitive to duty cycle but
depends on parameters N and Q. For OOK and VPM,
significantly larger bandwidth is clearly required. Also the
crossover of OPPM and VPM occurs at 90% duty cycle.

Figure 5. Power requirement vs. bandwidth requirement for different
modulation schemes.
V. CONCLUSION
We analyzed the illumination and communication
performances of OOK, VPM and OPPM signals including the
dimming range, flicker severity index, cutoff data rate and
power and bandwidth efficiencies. We showed that OPPM
signal has the smallest and constant flicker severity under all
dimming levels spanning a reasonably large brightness
dimming range. This modulation scheme also provided the
largest and steady cutoff data rate but required much more
power to reach the same BER than the OOK and VPM signals
in an AWGN channel. While Q is close to 1, OPPM signal can
approximately reach the full brightness. In terms of both
2010 19th Annual Wireless and Optical Communications Conference (WOCC 2010)
74
illumination and communication performances, OPPM appears
as the desirable modulation solution to emerging LED-based
high capacity visible light communication.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
The authors would like to thank Qunfeng He for valuable
discussions.
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