Consider the 7-segment displays (or 8 if you count the decimal) that you may use in projects. While capable of displaying numbers by simply lighting up each segment’s LED, I/O requirements for these devices can soon get out of hand since each requires eight pins to fully light up. Once you’re past a digit or two, you’ll need to deal with multiplexing and/or a jumble of wires.
On the other hand, addressable LED strips allow you to power literally thousands of discreet three-LED packages with a single data line. So why can’t you do the same thing with the humble 7-segment display? As it just so happens, you can do just that, as maker/YouTuber Sean Hodgins illustrates in the video below.
In his design, WS2811 chips are employed to control three segments each. Instead of R, G, and B lighting components, each is wired to a single segment, meaning three chips are needed per digit. Each unit attaches together with a trio of header pins, making wiring very easy. Programming is now done via Adafruit’s NeoPixel library, though he’s looking for someone to develop a standalone library to facilitate programming.