A German physicist has discovered a way to use beams of flickering light to wirelessly transmit digital information, a process that is also known as Visible Light Communication.
While the light bulb has long been the symbol used above the human head to represent a eureka moment, it is Herald Haas who used the light bulb itself for his new inspiration, reports CNN. Haas stated:
“My big idea is to turn light bulbs into broadband communication devices … so that they not only provide illumination, but an essential utility.”
Haas has stated that data can be sent through any LED light bulb by simply adding a microchip to it, allowing it to blink on and off at an extremely high speed (millions of times per second).
This capability allows the LED lights to transmit data with a rapid stream of binary code. While it is invisible to the naked eye, it can be detected by a light-sensitive receiver. Newser notes that Haas explained:
“It’s a bit like sending a Morse code signal with a torch, but at a much faster rate and using the alphabet that computers understand.”
The implication of Haas’s project means that wherever there is a light bulb, there is the potential for a wireless internet connection — meaning that any street lamp could turn into a web hotspot.
VLC, or “Li-Fi” does more than connect people to the internet. Not only will it simply allow people to connect to the internet wherever there is a light bulb, it also allows for multiple people to connect in one area without reducing the speed of data transfer.
Less congestion in data transfers means that Li-Fi could be as fast as one gigabyte per second — in effect this means that high-definition films could be downloaded faster than it takes to send a text message.
VLC is not a competitor with WiFi, but is actually a complimentary technology that will help free up much needed space within the radio wave spectrum. Haas stated:
“We still need Wi-Fi, we still need radio frequency cellular systems. You can’t have a light bulb that provides data to a high-speed moving object or to provide data in a remote area where there are trees and walls and obstacles behind.”
While the widespread use of light bulb data transfer is still some way off, if could have small scale applications short term. It could help air travel by allowing overhead cabin lights to connect mobile devices and laptops during flight, and could also improve conditions for underwater workers, where radio waves are not able to penetrate.
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