blinkenlights networks

Shining a light on wireless networks

The research is looking at piggybacking data on low-power light emitting diodes (LEDs). It is hoped that this “Smart Lighting” would be faster and more secure than current network technology.

“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.”

The ability to rapidly turn LED lights on and off – so fast the change is imperceptible to the human eye – is key to the technology. Flickering light in patterns enables data transmission without any noticeable change in room lighting.

I don’t care so much about faster and more secure as I do about ubiquitous and space-limited. Imagine how nice it would be to have a local network that was really local, and that anything coming into a room could tap into. It’s basically the smart badges from Xerox PARC in 1990, only without nearly as much overhead.

And it also has some really serious possibilities for plug-and-play with all the things that are now or ever will be controlled by optical remotes…

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