Let There Be Light

So God said "Let there be Light" and there was Light
-Genesis 1:3
Then came Edison and his bulbs and there was more light. This prevailed until along came Paresh Rawal with his CFLs and "SHU THAYU?? SAVINGS!!!"

Now you are getting light and at half the cost... or so it says. What next?? The Light Emitting Diode (LED) to drop the operational expenditure to a small fraction.

Now imagine... You walk into a room and the light switches on... Yawn... been there done that... smart lighting. Now imagine if your computer, iPhone, TV, radio and thermostat could all communicate with you when you walked in a room just by flipping the wall light switch and without the usual cluster of wires. All this alongwith light and that too over existing power lines with low power consumption, high reliability and no electromagnetic interference. Fantasy??

But that's true! Researchers at several educational institutions are working on a next-generation wireless communications technology that's based on visible light rather than radio waves. This initiative, known as the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center, is part of an $18.5 million, multi-year NSF program awarded to Boston University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of New Mexico to develop the optical communication technology that would make an LED light the equivalent of a WiFi access point. This innovative alternative piggybacking data communications capabilities onto low-power light emitting diodes (LEDs) that would be both faster and more secure than current network technology may one day replace most of today's lighting devices.

Now imagine, you're driving around town and stop at a signal. The red light kinda flickers imperceptibly to your eye but the "intelligent" system in your car comes to life advising you that there's a big traffic jam just down the road and a detour to the left could save you about an hour. MAGIC?? But possible with this new way of communication.

"This is a unique opportunity to create a transcendent technology that not only enables energy efficient lighting, but also creates the next generation of secure wireless communications," says Thomas Little, a Boston University engineering professor. "As we switch from incandescent and compact florescent lighting to LEDs in the coming years, we can simultaneously build a faster and more secure communications infrastructure at a modest cost along with new and unexpected applications."

Not that Light is being used for communication for the first time. Light houses have been warning us of dangerous rocks in the seas for years. And we've been using Morse code to some extent using light.

Little envisions indoor optical wireless communications systems that use white LED lighting within a room – akin to the television remote control device – to provide Internet connections to computers, personal digital assistants, television and radio reception, telephone connections and thermostat temperature control.

With widespread LED lighting, a vast network of light-based communication is possible, Little noted. A wireless device within sight of an enabled LED could send and receive data though the air – initially at speeds in the range of 1 to 10 megabits per second – with each LED serving as an access point to the network. Such a network would have the potential to offer users greater bandwidth than current RF technology.

Moreover, since white light does not penetrate opaque surfaces such as walls, there is a higher level of security, as eavesdropping is not possible. LED lights also consume far less energy than RF technology, offering the opportunity to build a communication network without added energy costs and reducing carbon emissions over the long term.

The ability to rapidly turn LED lights on and off – so fast that the change is imperceptible to the human eye – is key to the technology. Flickering light in patterns enables data transmission without any noticeable change in room lighting. And the technology is not limited to indoor lights; its first real test may very well come outdoors, in the automotive industry.

"This technology has many implications for automobile safety," Little said. "Brake lights already use LEDs, so it's not a stretch to outfit an automobile with a sensor that detects the brake lights of the car in front of it and either alerts an inattentive driver or actively slows the car."

"The innovative LED-based networking research ... has the potential to be extremely positive and disruptive to the market," says Inder Monga, a project leader in advanced networking research at Nortel. "Nortel believes the era of hyperconnectivity is upon us and the potential new applications that this visible light-based networking could enable with its energy efficient qualities, privacy and its ubiquitous nature is very exciting."

Article by Shrikant who blogs at Hedonist to the Core.

comment 4 comments:

Mandy on May 15, 2010 at 7:19 AM said...

Gr8 useful gyaan... Liked the ways in which the technology can be implemented and impact us. This is the 1st time I ve read ur posts and must say your resume fits the bill.
Keep up the good work.. Indeed its the best selling and not the best writing author who takes the cake, but more often than naught eventually they r one and the same.

All the best

Shrikant on May 15, 2010 at 10:11 PM said...

Thanks Mandy... for the compliments
Glad that you liked the post. Do keep coming back.

rohini on May 17, 2010 at 6:12 PM said...

nice useful post....first tiem on ur blog and liked reading this post..on to the next one..:-)
do find time to visit my space too..http://rohinirojindar.blogspot.com/

Saurabh Panshikar on May 27, 2010 at 8:51 AM said...

nice info I got here...

Light can help you skip a traffic jam? Awesome!

Keep going man...

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