January 01, 2014

I must confess I was a little late on the bandwagon, earlier this year sitting at home and pleased with my ever-growing collection of TED videos downloaded through Miro, I came across one with featured speaker Prof. Harald Haas. Feeling excited after watching it; the subject was LED technology as a medium for Data, I resolved that an article must be written on the topic!

For those who are unaware LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. Some of you would have already discovered the benefits of LEDs in your own lives through the ever increasing popularity of efficient LED lighting bulbs and lamps. Now imagine those lights in your house were being used to transmit data, data at fast speeds (Sufficient at least for watching an HD video) all over your home! Well it's now possible.

Prof. Harald Haas from The University of Edinburgh exploits the ability of LEDs as semiconductors capable of high frequency modulation for the purpose of carrying data. He says:

“Everywhere in a day there is light. Look around. Everywhere. Look at your smart phone. It has a flashlight, an LED flashlight. These are potential sources for high-speed data transmission.”

Now I know what you’re thinking, that might be your biggest nightmare; everywhere you go there will be flickering lights. No, not at all, the modulation is so subtle as a result of its sheer speed that your naked eye won't notice a thing; the light will seem constant and natural. Let me say the idea of data everywhere i.e. planes, trains, cars, homes, offices, restaurants and even on the streets may sound like a dream-come-true, it still makes me at the same time feel a bit uneasy, imagine if this technology fell into the wrong hands? One can augur a dystopian future for information privacy, rather the end of it; I suppose progress has always been a double edged sword like that.

The idea of data through light is by no means a new phenomenon, for instance Fibre optics is already quite an established form of communication, heck - if you haven't watched the video it may not have occurred to you... ...something we take so for granted like the remote control we use every day to switch on the box is light transferring information, albeit small amounts of information over infra-red. The genius of this is applying it to something that we all have access to, affordable (roughly R30) lighting which we would have otherwise put in our work/ home environments anyway.

I sincerely wish the professor all the success in his endeavours and would really look forward to living in a world with Li-Fi (Light-Fidelity) as an affordable and viable alternative to wired systems.

For those interested in the video; Here's the link: http://www.ted.com/talks/harald_haas_wireless_data_from_every_light_bulb.html



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