Capacitive Touch Ambient Lighting User Interface

A prominent manufacturer of high-end patio furniture and accessories, embarked on a collaborative journey with JN White, a leading provider of advanced electronic solutions. What initially began as a venture involving decal work evolved into an innovative project involving intricate LED lighting, capacitive touch technology, and state-of-the-art ambient light sensing. This case study illuminates the path from concept to realization, highlighting the challenges and solutions that led to the creation of a sophisticated user interface for luxury patio umbrellas.

How JN White® Helped

The client envisioned a versatile patio umbrella with a “glowing” light ring under low light conditions, offering dynamic lighting control and intuitive user interaction. The scope of the project included the integration of a capacitive touch interface with ambient light sensing capabilities. The user interface was expected to enable users to control the marine grade LED light fixture, ranging from turning it on and off to adjusting the brightness level. To achieve this, the project necessitated intricate design, engineering, and prototyping efforts.


The collaboration for this project spanned 18 months, resulting in six prototypes. Each prototype iteration refined the design and functionality, optimizing the user experience while maintaining aesthetic excellence. The following challenges were resolved through the design process:


  • Full Voltage Handling: Unlike typical low-voltage scenarios, the LED light ring required handling full electrical voltage. To address this challenge, JN White engineered a printed circuit board that could efficiently manage and distribute the +12 VDC battery voltage to the LED light module, ensuring optimal light output without compromising safety.
  • Ambient Light Sensing: The umbrella’s intelligent lighting system required awareness of its environment. JN White employed an ambient light sensor, strategically positioned beneath a clear window on the graphic overlay. This sensor detected whether it was daytime or nighttime and triggered the appropriate response in the user interface.
  •  Backlit Icon Integration: To create an intuitive user experience, the interface needed to be distinguishable in both daylight and darkness. JN White ingeniously designed an interface that utilized side-firing LEDs. During low-light conditions, these LEDs subtly illuminated the button area, guiding users to the capacitive touch icon and enhancing the visual appeal.
  • Dimming Mechanism: The ambient lighting control extended beyond mere on-off functionality. A touch-to-dim feature was incorporated to adjust the LED light intensity. Holding one’s finger on the capacitive touch icon triggers a gradual dimming effect. JN White harnessed an IC chip to facilitate this dynamic dimming feature.

The Result

The capacitive touch user interface with ambient light sensor project stands as a testament to the innovative capabilities of JN White. The integration of handling full voltage, capacitive touch interaction, ambient light sensing, and a dynamic dimming IC chip showcases the depth of engineering and design expertise. This ambitious endeavor has birthed a state-of-the-art outdoor lighting control system that effortlessly blends aesthetic sophistication with cutting-edge technology. The ambient touch controller, mounted on the parasol base, is a masterpiece that transcends traditional outdoor lighting experiences.




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