Intelligent Security Systems - Part 6 of 6

The advantages of pulsed lighting for intelligent transport systems

Pulsestar illuminators typically provide 400% power output compared to the equivalent constant illuminator.

Pulsestar illuminators typically provide 400% power output compared to the equivalent constant illuminator.

Raytec is a world leader in LED lighting for security and safety applications. The company is consequently a strong supplier in the market for Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS).

“ Lighting is an essential part of an effective transport system, but when designing an Intelligent Transport System, you need to consider what ‘type’ of lighting suits your project,” comments Callum Ryder, Product Manager at Raytec.

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) are a combination of advanced information and communication technologies used in transportation and traffic management systems to enhance the efficiency, safety and sustainability of transportation networks.

“When it comes to lighting there are two different approaches to this type of scenario, ‘constant’ and ‘pulsed’ illumination,” says Callum Ryder and explains the difference between the two.

Constant Illumination

Callum Ryder, Product Manager at Raytec.
Callum Ryder, Product Manager at Raytec.

Constant illumination is when a light is switched on 100% of the time, usually due to a specific user requirement, where they want the light to be constantly available. However, for automatic number plate recognition applications the camera is not constantly capturing images, for every frame it is effectively taking a 1,000th of a second snapshot.

Pulsed Illumination

Pulsed illumination refers to fast flashes of light that sync directly with the camera’s shutter. Using pulsed lighting provides ondemand lighting to accurately record imagery of fast-moving objects. The illuminator can be synced with the camera’s shutter via a digital input to ensure there are maximum levels of light when required. Pulsed lighting is usually triggered by a moving vehicle.

The benefits of pulse illumination

According to Raytec, pulsed illumination provides a number of advantages over constant lighting when being used for transport applications. Some of the main benefits include the following:

  • Power. When the illuminator is pulsed, it is only operational for short bursts of time. This means the LED’s can be driven harder (more power input to the LED’s) without reducing the lifespan of the LEDs. The maximum power input to the illuminator depends on; the particular LED used (this can be 3-5 times more power), the time the LED is illuminated versus the power cycle, and the limitations of the drive circuit.
  • Consumption. Pulsing an illuminator can also reduce the overall power consumption of the unit by a significant amount. By only deploying the pulsed illumination as and when required, running costs can be significantly reduced, and it can also help the illuminator to last longer (compared to an illuminator that is on constantly). If power saving is a requirement, then the overall power consumption can be reduced by as much as 95% with pulsed LED’s, or by 75% if they are driven at a higher pulse power.
  • Operating Temperature. In pulsed mode, the illuminator will only be on for 1/20th of the time (and off for 19/20ths). This means that the illuminator will remain at a cooler temperature compared to a unit that is running constantly. This has a huge benefit when it comes to operating in hot climates. Pulsed lighting can offer considerably lower operating temperatures, making it safer and increasing illuminator reliability. LED lifetime is 100% controlled by the heat of the unit; turning the LED on and off when needed helps to lower the ambient temperature and dramatically prolongs the life of the unit.
  • Visual Impact. With traffic applications, using white-light can interfere with the driver’s vision and can become extremely distracting especially when on constantly. Therefore, using pulsed technology means that it is on only when required meaning that it lowers the visual impact of the illuminator for drivers.

Pulsestar confirms the advantages

The advantages of pulsed illumination is confirmed by the performance of Raytec´s high-intensity pulsed LED illuminators in the Pulsestar range.

“Pulsestar illuminators typically provide 400% power output compared to the equivalent constant illuminator. This means that the pulsed lighting can achieve longer distances, or brighter light at a shorter distance,” comments Callum Ryder.

“Alternatively, it could allow a smaller unit to be installed while still achieving the same output and distance, reducing overall capital costs. Compared to constant lighting (where the power is constantly outputted), with Pulsestar technology there is no reduction in the life of the LED’s within the illuminator,” he adds finally.

Note: This editorial article has primarily been produced for the security trade magazine Detektor in collaboration with

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