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May 3, 2012

Future Tech: Internet through a light bulb

This week’s Future Tech comes to you via the internet, of course. But in a few years the internet you’re using could come from the light bulb in your lamp/lighting unit/chandelier. Nokia Connects delves deeper…

via Cartridge Save

It was a couple of years ago that researchers at Boston University first mooted the possibility, and this is how they thought it would happen: an LED light source can flicker faster than the human eye can detect. It is either on or off thousands of times every second. It is therefore either a 0 or a 1. Computers, as we all know, work on binary signals, processing a string of 0’s and 1’s. Ergo, if the computer can detect the signal from an LED light bulb, it can process binary information. Brilliant.

Professor Thomas Little from Boston University said –

‘An LED-based communications network could also provide light – all over existing power lines with low power consumption, high reliability and no electromagnetic interference.’

Sounds pretty awesome, and secure as light beams can’t travel through walls, so someone sitting outside couldn’t leech off your WiFi signal.

via Proficiency 2C

Also jumping on this idea were the boffins at Edinburgh University, specifically Professor Harald Hass who dubbed the technology LiFi. Taking the idea one step further than Professor Little, Hass proposed that switching on the light would, in effect, ‘turn on’ the internet, and the signal could be boosted by using the unused ‘white space’ on the TV spectrum.

So there are two ways this could work. Either your computer talks to your light bulb (yes, it did feel strange typing that), or your computer talks to your light bulb and your TV to boost your signal strength.

Do you see this actually happening? What kind of signal strength could you see ultimately see coming from a light bulb? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter, with your ideas for the future