updated 02:55 pm EDT, Tue October 7, 2008
Smart LED Lighting
Boston University says that it has developed the basics of a new wireless data method that would allow computers and other devices to communicate in a room without the traditional weaknesses of Wi-Fi. Instead of using radio waves, the new approach would use an optical wireless system that would translate very rapid pulses in LED lighting into data signals. Each light would be capable of as much as 10Mbps and would effectively serve as an access point for a central network node by broadcasting to network devices with a line of sight.
The method would take care of many of the range issues of Wi-Fi by putting hotspots in one or more areas for a given room and would also be inherently more secure and stable by preventing the signal from filtering through walls. Lights would need to remain on for the wireless signal to work, but the inherent low-power nature of LEDs makes them more power-efficient compared to both incandescent light bulbs and to radio-based wireless.
Such networked lights could also be used wherever LEDs are needed; a car's LED headlights or taillights could warn other cars of a possible collision, while the coverage could also ensure that appliances get online without needing dedicated hardware.
When this smart lighting system would be available is unknown, as Boston University has just launched its program. Eventual commercial production is still considered likely.