TEDGlobal has an intriguing presentation by Harald Haas who is developing a new type of light bulb that can access the Internet using light instead of radio waves. According to TEDGlobal, the professor of engineering at Edinburgh University, has been designing modulation techniques that pack more data onto existing networks, but his latest work leaps beyond wires and radio waves to transmit data via an LED bulb. The new technology will turn LED lights on and off, so fast the change is imperceptible to the human eye to enables data transmission without any noticeable change in room lighting.
The system, which he calls D-Light, and hopes to commercialize under the new VLC (Visible Light Communications) brand uses OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing), The article reports the signal can be picked up by simple receivers. As of now, Haas is reporting data rates of up to 10 MBPS (faster than a typical broadband connection), and 100 MBPS by the end of this year and possibly up to 1 GB in the future.
He says: “It should be so cheap that it’s everywhere. Using the visible light spectrum, which comes for free, you can piggy-back existing wireless services on the back of lighting equipment.”
“As well as revolutionizing internet reception, it would put an end to the potentially harmful electromagnetic pollution emitted by wireless internet routers and has raised the prospect of ubiquitous wireless access, transmitted through streetlights.
So in 2008 Boston University under a National Science Foundation grant started this the research to piggyback data communications capabilities on low-power LEDs to make an LED light the equivalent of a Wi-fi access point.
Some of the advantages of this technology include:
- Security: Since white light does not penetrate opaque surfaces such as walls, eavesdropping is not possible and should not extend beyond building perimeters like current Wi-Fi technology. It also requires line-of-sight which will allow the user to see where the data is going.
- Green: The development of this new technology coincides with the switch from incandescent and compact fluorescent lighting to LEDs. LED lights consume far less energy than RF technology, making it possible to build a communication network without added energy costs and reducing carbon emissions over the long-term.
One down-side is that the technology seems to be a one-way (down) transmission.
Possible applications could include automotive safety be enabling car brake lights to alert the car behind or traffic signals could alert cars when they change.It could also have applications in indoor mobile location and positioning services.
What do you think?
- D-Light Project (see.ed.ac.uk)
- Wireless Data From Every Light Bulb [Video] (geeksaresexy.net)
- Besides saving energy a switch to LED lights can be used to enable gigabit per second Li-Fi that can be ten times cheaper than Wi-Fi (nextbigfuture.com)