February 5, 2013
The University of Strathclyde in the UK has created the Intelligent Lighting Centre (ILC), a consortium comprised of researchers from several universities, to investigate ways to transmit Internet communications using LED lights. The research focuses on using the flickering of LED lights to transmit messages using visible light rather than radio waves, Wi-Fi signals, cell signals or cables.
A university release explains the goals of the project:
“Underpinning Li-Fi is the use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), a rapidly spreading lighting technology which is expected to become dominant over the next 20 years. Imperceptibly, LEDs flicker on and off thousands of times a second: by altering the length of the flickers, it is possible to send digital information to specially-adapted PCs and other electronic devices — making Li-Fi the digital equivalent of Morse Code. This would make the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum available for Internet communications, easing pressure on the increasingly crowded parts of the spectrum currently being used.”
The team developed tiny LED lights that can flicker 1,000 times faster than larger LED lights. This allows the lights to transmit more information. The researchers say the lights can transmit data at one gigabit per second.
“The crazy thing about these tiny [LEDs] is that while they are shooting information to one another, they could also be lighting your home or showing you a message or maybe even a picture,” writes GigaOM. “So far two companies have spun out of this research group attempting to build out LED-based wireless data transmission: mLED and pureVLC.”