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Internet from lamps one step closer

Fri, 04/05/2013 - 2:20pm
Brian Santo

Transmitting data using simple LEDs is still a research technology, but it took another step closer to practical implementation.

The Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute (HHI) said it has patented a means of using off-the-shelf LED room lights for data transmission. The research envisions a time when data could be transmitted via room lights.

HHI said that it has achieved WLAN data rates up to 800 Mbps in one laboratory experiment. In another, it used a single light frequency to exceed 1 Gbps. Given that off-the-shelf LEDs typically mix three light frequencies, the organization believes aggregate rates of up to 3 Gbps are feasible.

To date, LEDs could only be used with a bandwidth of around 30 MHz, HHI said, but reported that the new approach enables exploitation of a much higher bandwidth of up to 180 MHz. As the higher frequency bands are also used for transmission, this significantly boosts the data rate, HHI explained.

Several other research organizations have done work on using LEDs for data transmission, and development seems to be progressing rapidly from lab curiosity to practical implementation. As recently as a year ago, researchers were still building LEDs for data transmission using highly specialized production techniques. Stanford University, for example, in late 2011 reported creating a nanoscale LED with a theoretical output of 10 Gbps.

The notion of using common LED-based household lightbulbs for data transmission was explored in this 2011 TED talk by Harold Haas of the University of Edinburgh.

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