Light Talk, 16 August 2011

One of the things that has not stopped amazing me is the continuous technological developments in the lighting industry ever since I started my career now 30 years back. In my early days we had the 40mm fluorescent tubes, a couple of incandescent lamps including the good old PAR reflector lamp and a few gas discharge lamps like mercury vapour, sodium and a bit of metal halide, all old technology. Over the years these technologies improved dramatically (tri-fosfor, high frequency, compact fluorescent, white sodium, new generation metal halide, halogen, ec) and new technologies such as induction, fiber optic and the last couple of years the incredible developments with LED lighting.

Now something new is about to hit us if we can believe Harald Haas, a professor in digital communication teaching and researching simultanously in universities in Edinburgh, Scotland and Bremen, Germany. Research in these universities has focussed around white light communication and infrared technology respectively. One of the key technologies he has been researching is LED data transfer technology! Basically using light as the medium to transfer data. Using light in itself to transmit data is nothing new (fiber optic cables!) but using visible light (something we use in our everyday life) to communicate is. By inserting tiny transceivers in an LED light bulb, the light beam can be used to transfer data. Considering that there are many billions of light bulbs installed all over the world, this technology potentially opens up data transfer opportunities exponentially compared to the wireless technology we are accustomed to now. The technology can work on direct as well as reflective light which overcomes one of the main hurdles of obstacles obstructing a light beam. The technology would also work very well under water.

Read more