Jul 262011
Image showing both a fluorescent and an incand...

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Imagine if the light bulbs in your house could be not just lighting up a room but transmitting and receiving data as well.

That’s idea behind the emerging technology of Li-Fi.

I should say the re-emerging technology of Li-Fi, actually, since it’s an idea that’s been around a long time. You can go back to the 1880s and the laboratory of one Alexander Graham Bell who was able to send wireless phone messages through an invention of something called the Photophone.

The reason that invention never got the traction that Bell’s later invention did (a little gizmo called the telephone, you might have heard of it) is that the light bulbs of the time were pretty primitive. Today, we have LED lights that are both energy-efficient and more technologically advanced because they can be more finely controlled. This means, says Harald Haas, professor at the University of Edinburgh, that the light bulbs can be used as conductors for data.

Haas recently demonstrated this technology on stage at the TEDGlobal Conference in Edinburgh recently. According to the New York Times, “He used a table lamp with an LED bulb to transmit a video of blooming flowers that was then projected onto a screen behind him. The prototype can be built economically in part because it uses cheap off-the-shelf parts that cost just a few dollars he said. ‘There is no antenna,’ he said in an interview.”

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