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Wireless data transfer record smashed


January 25, 2010

Siemens' Visible Light Communication technology

Siemens' Visible Light Communication technology

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If you’re like most people, you probably think that 200 megabits per second for wireless data transfer is just too darn slow! What are we, cavemen? Not anymore, apparently, as electronic engineering company Siemens just broke their own record by achieving 500 Mbps using white LED light.

Researchers from Siemens’ Corporate Technology sector in Munich successfully sent the data across five meters of empty space. They did it by modulating the power supply to an Ostar LED, made by Siemens subsidiary Osram. Although the resulting 500 light intensity fluctuations per second were invisible to the human eye, they were readable by a photodetector receiver, which converted them into electrical pulses. The researchers also established that a system combining five LED’s is capable of transmitting data over longer distances, at a rate of 100 Mbps.

This type of data transfer is known as Visible Light Communication, or VLC, and has many potential applications. It could be used in wireless local area networks, for instance, where traditional RF technology often results in data packet collisions due to crowded frequency bands - devices communicating with light wouldn’t have to bother seeking out and sharing radio frequencies. VLC would also be ideally-suited to settings such as hospitals, where radio transmissions are often limited or forbidden. In the field of transportation, LED signals or stoplights could relay information to vehicles like trains or transport trucks. And when it comes to highly-sensitive data, VLC would be a good choice because its signal can’t be tapped. Only the photoreceptor that is positioned directly in line with the LED’s beam can read the data.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has been working to standardize VLC activity, and will hopefully have done so by the end of the year.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Are you sure that this is a wireless record? I\'m pretty sure that CSIRO was demonstrating a multi gigabit wireless link at CeBIT in Sydney 3 or 4 years ago.

Also, I\'m a bit confused by the \"ideally suited to highly-sensitive data\" comment. How would that work in practice ? In a hospital where WLAN is being replaced, how many doctors will stand still and point their PDA directly at the access point? How accurately will trucks and trains line up with control signals? If it is as line of sight dependent as most light based systems it might have too many limitations to become a WLAN replacement

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"devices communicating with light wouldn’t have to bother seeking out and sharing radio frequencies" until they started getting popular, when it will be more difficult as the bandwidth available in the visible spectrum is much narrower than the radio spectrum. OK for a "one off" application but not for public "wireless"

VLC is already used by some supermarkets to update electronic shelf labels by modulating the fluorescent store lighting: http://bit.ly/MQ6bm8

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