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Smart LEDs could join Internet of Things

2016-07-13

Smart LEDs could join the dots of Internet of Things

LEDs can do double duty and illuminate a room whilst joining together the Internet of Things.

Experts at Disney Research and ETH Zurich believe that it is possible to create a network of luminaires that can send messages to each other, while having no effect on the level of lighting they emit. The experts have designed a Visible Light Communications system that is able to connect to appliances and wearable devices.

‘LED light bulbs mounted on the ceiling or in free-standing floor lamps easily cover a room, serving as illumination while at the same time creating a room-area network that allows data exchange between light-emitting devices’ 

Markus Gross - vice president Disney Research 

‘LED light bulbs mounted on the ceiling or in free-standing floor lamps easily cover a room, serving as illumination while at the same time creating a room-area network that allows data exchange between light-emitting devices,’ commented Markus Gross, vice president at Disney Research.

'Even if a bulb is not needed for lighting and is switched off, it can still serve as a receiver of signals from those devices,' he added.

The research team used commercially available, off-the-shelf LED light bulbs to create the system. The fixtures were then modified and a System-on-a-Chip, or SoC, running an embedded version of Linux was added to each luminaire, as well as photodiodes to enhance the sensing of incoming signals.

The team’s completed prototype is able to create stable networks that can support the low bandwidth applications typical of most ‘Internet of Things’ devices.

‘Interconnecting appliances, sensors and a wide variety of devices into the Internet of Things has many potential benefits, but using radio links to do so threatens to make the radio spectrum an even scarcer resource,’ commented Markus Gross, vice president at Disney Research. ‘Visible light communication networks act to conserve the radio spectrum.’

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