Lightbulbs next wifi hotspots?

According to Cellular-News, the College of Engineering at Boston University is launching a program aimed at developing the next generation of wireless communications based on visible light rather than radio waves. From the article:

“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,” said BU Engineering Professor Thomas Little. “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.”

Fewer wires and increased communication with all of your devices sounds like a winning advancement to me. The technology for LED-based wifi has just begun, so I’m cheering for the labs at BU to work diligently to get this to market.

(via Engadget)

15 Comments for “Lightbulbs next wifi hotspots?”

  1. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    amazing concept! It’s truly remarkable to imagine where we’ll be (in terms of modern technology) in five, 10, 20 years!

  2. posted by timgray on

    Wow sounds very much like IrDA. something that most laptops and smartphones have had for the past 15 years and now is disappearing from many of them because wifi is faster and better.

    What’s old is new again :)

  3. posted by Emma on

    How wonderful, and proof that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”

  4. posted by Sandor on

    Sounds great at first, but visible light tends to have trouble passing through walls, desks, people, etc. Further, LEDs tend to be highly directional. I could see this as a replacement system for IrDA (also line of sight), but not as a replacement for wireless.

  5. posted by Michael on

    Picking up on Sandor’s points: is there a need to go into the visible spectrum when we already use RF to do wireless communication? Already we use it to transmit data at high speeds via satellites and repeater dishes to every spot on Earth, so why do we need to use light as well?

    I don’t mean to sound so negative–I just don’t see what extra functionality this provides.

  6. posted by Peter (a different one) on

    it sounds interesting, but there would appear to be major setbacks as already mentioned, light can’t pass through walls, plants, people, etc. It may be very useful for long distance, line of site communications, similar to fiber optics without the cable.

  7. posted by Katie on

    I agree with the previous comments. I also think visible light attenuates quickly in air, so you wouldn’t be able to go very far from the source, either. I wonder if there’s any motivation beyond the “cool factor” of developing this technology.

  8. posted by Chris W on

    The technology does not transmit data via visible light. The technology builds wi-fi transmitters into the base of the light bulbs. The transmitter and LEDs get powered the same way traditional light bulbs are powered, instead of having to plug them into electrical sockets like appliances.

  9. posted by jocelyn on

    Wires and piles of unfinished work: the two things you never see in furniture catalogues. Both are the bane of my existence.

  10. posted by Conflicted on

    Sounds nice, but as someone who attempts to restrict their electricity use, I would hate to have to turn on my lights every time I want to use my laptop and connect to the internet. What if I could just switch on the wifi with a separate switch? That would give me more options, and also eliminate some wires (though power cords are the bane I deal with).

  11. posted by Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome on

    The thing I love most about this idea is that LEDs take so little energy to run, so if the wifi can be built into the same powersource then that means running internet connections can be a low-consuming as LEDs and will encourage both users and manufacturers to create more LED lighting for homes and offices.

  12. posted by Sam on

    @Chris W: no, this technology *does* transmit data via visible light. Check the article.

  13. posted by Ladders INC on

    This is great news…another idea being developed is the use of exiting electrical lines for networks

  14. posted by Freddie on

    Well, use it where applicable. Somewhere where light would be permanently on in any ways. I like the idea of boosting your wifi the same way you switch on a light, but even better would be if it could run in power saving mode and automatically power up when needed.

  15. posted by Lightbulbs next wifi hotspots? - Ryan Boswell on

    [...] is a very interesting proposal by the researchers at Boston University, using visible light to transmit wireless data. While this [...]

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