Engineers at Boston University are developing the next generation of wireless communications technology — LED lights. Information will be transmitted through visible light rather than radio waves. This “Smart Lighting” will use low power light emitting diodes, or LEDs, to deliver faster, more secure data communications wirelessly.
Essentialy, these LED lights would become the equivalent of a Wi-Fi access point.
BU Engineering Professor Thomas Little commented: “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. This could be done with an LED-based communications network that also provides light – all over existing power lines with low power consumption, high reliability and no electromagnetic interference. Ultimately, the system is expected to be applicable from existing illumination devices, like swapping light bulbs for LEDs.”
With properly placed LED lighting, a wireless device in sight of the data-filled light would have access to the internet and network. Initial speeds of 1 to 10 megabit per second is expected. Furthermore, because light is unable to travel through solid walls, the data is less prone to “eavesdropping.” Less energy is also consumed by this method as opposed to traditional radio wave technology.
The core of this novel idea relies on the flickering of lights so rapid that it is unnoticable to the human eye. The flickering of light in different patterns would mean different signals, enabling data to be transmitted without noticeable change in room lighting.
Professor Little hopes to bring the technology outdoors to automobiles, in which brake lights of vehicles in front of a driver can be detected and warns the rear vehicle’s driver instanteously or even actively assisting in the braking.