Connect to the Internet through a light bulb? Researchers want to use LEDs as routers

dispose of light bulbs
Chones / Shutterstock
Right now, when you use Wi-Fi to try to figure out what the kids are listening to these days on this newfangled Apple Music (that might just be me), radio waves transmit the data between your computer and router. This often works just fine, but some people require wireless boosters to get the signal in their basements, for example. A team of former graduates from the University of Virginia think it’d be better if we could just connect to the Internet through our light bulbs.

Led by Professor Maite Brandt-Pearce, of the Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the project uses light waves from LEDs to send signals, faster than a standard Internet connection, to devices.

“We can transmit more data without using any additional energy,” Brandt-Pearce tells Phys.org. “As more light fixtures get replaced with LED lights, you can have different access points to the same network.”

Don’t ditch your router just yet, though. “This is not a replacement for Wi-Fi; it’s an augmentation,” said Brandt-Pearce. “Researchers have called it ‘Li-Fi.’ Our modulation can be used in any optical device, so this has the potential for widespread use and much better access than present Wi-Fi based on radio waves.” Brandt-Pearce also notes the connection would be secure in a windowless room, as the light waves can’t penetrate an opaque surface. However, this in turns means that the signal could be interrupted if something blocks the transmitting bulb.

Brandt-Pearce’s former student, Mohammad Noshad, who’s currently a postdoc at Harvard, is also working on the project. Noshad imagines the technology in light bulbs being used both for homes and in LED panels for bigger spaces, like stores and airports.

Noshad, who together with Brand-Pearce and the university filed a related patent application, has started a company, VLNComm, and has begun working on a prototype of a desk lamp that connects to the Internet via light waves. Part of the appeal is that bulbs or panels could easily replace those already in existence. Another bonus is that the light waves would be welcome in places where radio waves are not, like hospitals.

Brandt-Pearce sees potential for these LEDs to impact the Internet of Things, too: “Your alarm clock can communicate with your coffee maker that it is time to start making the coffee. Anything with an LED can talk to anything else with an LED. You don’t need a separate transmitter because you are not using radio waves.”

Mobile

Is the 5G spectrum harmful to our health? Experts say, 'Don't freak out'

There's plenty of consumer anxiety about radiofrequency (RF) radiation, specifically around millimeter waves (mmWave) used on 5G networks, but is it based in reality? We asked the FDA to give us its official view on the subject.
Computing

What is Wi-Fi 6? Here's a look at the next evolution of the wireless standard

We're exploring the new naming convention for wireless standards, how it affects the devices you buy, and what the upcoming Wi-Fi generation is changing for the better.
Home Theater

ATSC 3.0: The next-gen TV update explained

ATSC 3.0 is the next major update to the broadcast standard we use today. Will this be the second coming of free, over-the-air TV? We're here to explain everything about the new standard.
Computing

Give your eyes a break with these handy blue light filters

Filtering blue light from your monitor is a great way to make long days of work easier on your eyes, especially when it gets later in the day. You can use ones built into MacOS and Windows, or one of the third-party options.
Smart Home

Eight Sleep’s Pod bed keeps you cool (or warm) and tells you how you’re sleeping

Americans are chronically sleep deprived and startup Eight Sleep wants to change that. The company recently announced The Pod, a biometric-tracking, temperature-regulating smart mattress.
Smart Home

Google Home Mini vs. Amazon Echo Dot: Which smart home speaker is better?

We put the two most popular smart home speakers -- the Google Home Mini and the 3rd generation Amazon Echo Dot -- together and tested them on appearance, audio, and abilities. So which should you buy? Find out how they did in our showdown.
Smart Home

With new blueprints, Amazon empowers anyone to create Alexa skills in minutes

Amazon launched new tools called Skills Blueprints last year to empower more users to create and publish Alexa Skills and is now fine-tuning the tools, adding more customization as well as live and recorded audio.
Smart Home

Lowe’s offers Presidents Day bargains on Samsung appliances, Nest, and Dyson

Anticipating the demand for DIY makeovers, Lowe's Presidents' Day sale has deals on popular products from Dyson, Nest, and Samsung. If you're shopping for a vacuum cleaner, a stainless steel fridge, or home security devices, head to Lowe's.
Mobile

Google might release a smartwatch and multiple Pixel phones in 2019

Google seems to have a lot planned for 2019. According to a report, Google is planning on releasing multiple new Pixel phones, a smartwatch, a new Google Home, and a Nest Security camera this year.
Smart Home

Abode Systems taps HelloTech for professional security system installations

Abode Systems has been expanding into the smart home security market and will enhance its technology with a new partnership with tech support firm HelloTech, which will install its security systems for a fee.
Smart Home

Want to publish your own Alexa skill? Here's how to do it

Building new Alexa skills has never been easier! Thanks to Alexa Blueprints, you can pick a template and create any kind of Alexa skill you want. What new skill will you make first? Here's how to do it.
Smart Home

Let a robot do your chores! Here are the best robot vacuums for 2019

Robot vacuums are a convenient way to tidy up your home and minimize your weekly to-do list. From a top-of-the-line model to a handy budget option, here are the best robot vacuums you can buy right now.
Smart Home

Samsung washing machine recall results in $6.55M class-action settlement

Samsung settled a class action lawsuit involving more than 30 top-loading washing machine models for $6.55 million. The suit alleged the machine tops could detach and explode. Original owners may qualify for refunds and cash settlements.
Smart Home

At KBIS 2019, LG brings its biggest lineup of Amazon Dash-equipped appliances

LG announced ahead of KBIS 2019 that its entire line of dishwashers and laundry appliances will now come pre-integrated with Amazon Dash, the online retailer's popular automatic replenishment program.