A 12-month project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has found that LEDs could help meet demands for wireless communications without affecting quality of light or the existing environmental benefits they deliver.
A University of Edinburgh team, lead by Dr Wasiu Popoola, has found that transmitting digital data via LEDs at the same time as using them to generate light does not make the light dimmer or even change its colour. These popular misconceptions, explained Dr Wasiu Popoola, have held back the more widespread adoption of Light Fidelity, or Li-Fi, which uses household LEDs to enable data transfer.
The research findings should help to eliminate key hurdles to using LEDs to help satisfy the increasing global thirst for wireless communications. Preserving the quality of lighting is, in particular, a vital consideration as it has the potential to have a major effect on the physical and mental wellbeing of people in both their homes and workplaces. LEDs have secured a huge increase in their share of the worldwide lighting market, as well as being used extensively in TV and other displays.
Research explored two different data transmission techniques, the first ‘on-of keying’, whereby the LED works like Morse code, switching on and off rapidly and imperceptibly to human eyes; and ‘continuous signalling’, where imperceptible changes in light intensity are used to achieve the same goals.
With an increasing number of personal and household gadgets connecting to IoT, adding to the torrent of data needing transmission and the demand for wireless communications, Dr Popoola detailed, “Our ever more connected world will need more bandwidth than the overcrowded Radio Frequency part of the spectrum can provide. Plugging a key knowledge gap, our results are very encouraging for the future of light-based communications that could help realise the full economic and social potential of a wireless future. It’s vital that LED manufacturers know what impact the incorporation of data transmission capabilities would have on their products. Our research shows that there’s no dark side to using LED lights to supplement Wi-Fi.”