LED data communication
Singapore 16th August 2011
One of the things that has not stopped amazing me is the continuous technological developments in the lighting industry ever since I started my career now 30 years back. In my early days we had the 40mm fluorescent tubes, a couple of incandescent lamps including the good old PAR reflector lamp and a few gas discharge lamps like mercury vapour, sodium and a bit of metal halide, all old technology. Over the years these technologies improved dramatically (tri-fosfor, high frequency, compact fluorescent, white sodium, new generation metal halide, halogen, ec) and new technologies such as induction, fiber optic and the last couple of years the incredible developments with LED lighting.
Now something new is about to hit us if we can believe Harald Haas, a professor in digital communication teaching and researching simultanously in universities in Edinburgh, Scotland and Bremen, Germany. Research in these universities has focussed around white light communication and infrared technology respectively. One of the key technologies he has been researching is LED data transfer technology! Basically using light as the medium to transfer data. Using light in itself to transmit data is nothing new (fiber optic cables!) but using visible light (something we use in our everyday life) to communicate is. By inserting tiny transceivers in an LED light bulb, the light beam can be used to transfer data. Considering that there are many billions of light bulbs installed all over the world, this technology potentially opens up data transfer opportunities exponentially
compared to the wireless technology we are accustomed to now. The technology can work on direct as well as reflective light which overcomes one of the main hurdles of obstacles obstructing a light beam. The technology would also work very well under water.
While the potential to surf the internet through LED lighting opens up a new world, it is not difficult to see how we can use that within our lighting designs as well. Think lighting controls and the combination with our mobile phones and the various apps that can be developped to directly interact with any light source equipped with the technology. Data communication between lamps can also be “wireless”. Very interesting developments and it just shows how technologies slowly merge…look at what happened with mobile phones and the internet. Now this looks like merging with lighting!
In Light Watch the link to some websites with video’s that explain more about the technology. Check out the video on: . http://www.ted.com/talks/harald_haas_wireless_data_from_every_light_bulb.html and a write up on Deutsche Welle on: http://futurenow.dw-world.de/english/2011/02/02/led-data-transmission/. Further web search also produces a Japanese company promoting the technology in a video, see the site at: http://techcrunch.com/2010/06/23/video-system-for-data-transmission-via-visible-light/.
Light Watch 143: LED visible light communication