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Li-Fi, LED lights will now Broadcast Ads to your Smartphone, Tablet or TV!

Back in 2011 Pro­fes­sor Har­ald Haas of Edin­burgh Uni­ver­si­ty asked “What if every light bulb in the world could also trans­mit data?” It turns out he pro­ceed­ed to dis­cov­er the answer for him­self. So with stan­dard-off-the-shelf LED’s (light-emit­ting diode), numer­ous tests were made and it appears that LED light­ing fix­tures can trans­mit wire­less data at very com­pet­i­tive high speeds.

Haas calls it “Li-Fi”, broad­band trans­mis­sion using the Vis­i­ble Light Spec­trum or VLS. This is part of the elec­tro­mag­net­ic spec­trum, just like radio waves, is safe, prac­ti­cal to use and mul­ti-func­tion­al. This type of broad­band could be limitless.

NASA has start­ed work­ing with it to devel­op sup­ple­men­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems with­in the Inter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion’s Wi-Fi sys­tem, and pos­si­bly enhance it with such fea­tures as Glob­al Posi­tion­ing Satel­lite Rout­ing Sys­tems archi­tec­ture. Accord­ing to NASA, Alexan­der Gra­ham Bell, inven­tor of the not so famous pho­to­phone demon­strat­ed in the 1880s, trans­mis­sion of speech using mod­u­lat­ed sun­light over a dis­tance of sev­er­al hun­dred yards. Cool right?

But we don’t have to go all out­er space to see the near term use­ful appli­ca­tions of Li-Fi. It could do won­ders pro­vid­ing broad­band for a com­pa­ny head­quar­ters or sim­ple cof­fee shop. Any­where LED lights are could be designed to use VLS tech­nol­o­gy. The blink­ing and flash­ing are hap­pen­ing faster than the human eye can reg­is­ter so you wouldn’t even notice the data trans­mis­sion occur­ring. You can use off the shelf LED’s and $5 worth of parts to cre­ate a receiv­er. Con­nect­ing to the inter­net would be the same as usual.

A com­mer­cial prod­uct start­ed ship­ping sev­er­al months ago as Haas has launched a com­mer­cial ven­ture called pure­Li­Fi, also in Edin­burgh, which shipped its first ful­ly wire­less opti­cal net­work­ing sys­tems in the fourth quar­ter of 2014. The prod­uct, Li-Flame, turns stan­dard LED fix­tures into wire­less Inter­net access points.

Don’t be fooled there are a slew of oth­er orga­ni­za­tions look­ing into devel­op­ing Li-fi, first being the Berlin-based Fraun­hofer Hein­rich Hertz Insti­tute who is work­ing on the tech­nol­o­gy and poten­tial appli­ca­tions. They already feel con­fi­dent of the sys­tem’s per­for­mance. That being, per­for­mance has proved to be quite com­pet­i­tive with oth­er high-speed broad­band sources through­out all the use cas­es, and the FHHI test was no dif­fer­ent.  The insti­tute report­ed that data rates of one giga­bit per sec­ond and more were achieved with con­ven­tion­al LEDs, a rate that allows for the “flaw­less” trans­mis­sion of video data in HD and 4K quality.

Researchers at Dis­ney wire­less research group sub­mit­ted a paper at a work­shop at Mobi­Com 2015, held in Paris, France, that refers to Li-Fi accel­er­at­ing the “Inter­net of Things”.  The paper describes how LED light bulbs can also com­mu­ni­cate with oth­er VLS devices; explor­ing how the IP stacks and oth­er net­work­ing pro­to­cols can be host­ed on Lin­ux-based VLC devices and con­clud­ed the pro­posed VLC pro­to­cols are flex­i­ble enough to interoperate.

Dis­ney has their eye on this because the appli­ca­tion for toys is mind bog­gling. If you vis­it the Dis­ney research page for your­self you’ll see the con­cept for the Mag­ic Princess Dress, for exam­ple, comes with a wand that trig­gers light effects on a princess dress. There are LEDs are embed­ded into the dress and when the child points the wand at the dress, it comes to life at exact­ly that location.

Now sit and pon­der just for a moment the range of this. Light sen­si­tive wear­able tech – imag­ine you have sub­scribed to pro­mote brands that you love for a fee and when walk­ing past an LED light post in the park your shirt changes its LED fab­ric to broad­cast an image or com­mer­cial of the brand on your shirt with­in a good vis­i­bil­i­ty zone. How about shar­ing full length movies via your smart­phone as long as they are point­ing to each oth­er for a few sec­onds to com­plete upload.

I don’t have to sit here and write down all the pos­si­bil­i­ties. Could Sub­lim­i­nal “light” mes­sages real­ly become the way we do busi­ness in the future? If you’re smart enough you can already see the media poten­tial for this. Time to starts star­ing into the light for new ideas.

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