Scientists Find Way to Turn LED Lights Into Wireless Internet Source

by , 03/11/10

leds, led light, light emitting diode, wireless signal from led light, internet from led light, wireless internet, wi fi signal, energy efficient lightsPhoto: Velo Steve via Flickr

LEDs are already known for being a super energy efficient way to light up a room, but did you know that they might also be a way for you to connect to the internet? That’s right, a group of scientists from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute have devised a way to encode a visible-frequency wireless signal in light from our plain old desklamps and other light fixtures. Just think – in the near future, jumping on the interwebs might be as simple as flipping on your lightswitch!

leds, led light, light emitting diode, wireless signal from led light, internet from led light, wireless internet, wi fi signal, energy efficient lights, desk lamp

While the regular radio-frequency wi-fi most of us use currently is perfectly fine, it does have its flaws. It has a limited bandwidth that confines it to a certain spectrum and if you’ve ever had someone leech off of your connection, you know that it also leaks through walls, which can be helpful if you’re the one stealing internet but not fun when it’s the other way around. Disclaimer: Inhabitat does not advocate internet signal piracy.

Strangely enough, visible-frequency wireless works by flickering the lights in a room so slightly that the human eye can’t see it. Since incandescent and fluorescent bulbs don’t have the ability to flicker fast enough, it’s LED lights to the rescue. While regular commercial LEDs will do the trick, they do have a limited bandwidth. Luckily, researchers were able to expand the bandwidth by leaps and bounds by filtering out all but the blue light (cool!).

In terms of speed, the Fraunhofer team was able to achieve downloaded data at a rate of 230 megabits per second, which is a record for visible wireless using commercial LEDs and is comparable to high-end radio wireless connections. The team thinks they can double that speed in the near future. We’re really excited about this advance in terms of what it can do for how we connect to the internet but also because it gives us even more of an excuse to choose LED lights over incandescents.

Via ScienceDaily and PopularScience

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  1. JOATMON March 14, 2010 at 11:59 am

    This is not new, nor is it news…

    The Visible Light Communication Consortum has been investigating this for years, and also efforts in IEEE 802.15.7 and Ecma TC47 are under way to standardize this. In addition, a blue LED isn’t necessary; experimental efforst have used red and green LEDs as well.

    Google VLC.

  2. whatmeworry March 11, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    I think they plan for this to be asymmetric, most people just need high speed to the computer, the small bandwidth going back to the light from the computer would be radio wireless. When you click a URL a few hundred bytes go out but 1000x more bytes come back.

  3. metis March 11, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    not to burst your bubble thingswelike, but light is a form of radiation…..

    i’m interested in how they’re managing the signal to noise ratio in reflections and other sources. i can see the shimmer of leaves or reflections off water or light from tv screens or monitors adding in noise, and a sunny window overpowering the reader.

  4. mshaub March 11, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    That’s awesome! How does the signal get back fro
    my computer to the lamp though?

  5. thingswelike March 11, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Now that could be a really nice radiation-free way to have wireless. It just needs to be broad enough so that placement doesn’t need to be too fussy. Infra-red wireless devices are obviously already around and they never took off for internet use.

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