Wi-Fi Alternative Uses Light Instead of RF Waves

Researchers at Oregon State University have developed a system that increases Wi-Fi bandwidth by using LED lights to transmit information, instead of radio frequency (RF) waves. The system makes use of recent advances in light-based wireless communication to transmit data via light waves. When it comes to internet connections, light has several advantages over radio—it is faster, more secure, and there is no interference from nearby electronic devices because light is unaffected by RF-emitting equipment.

Lead researcher Thinh Nguyen involved all of his students in the project because he believes it is ground-breaking. “We believe that if this technology takes off, the next generation of laptops would include a photodiode receiver,” Nguyen said, in a recent press release. His team’s prototype sends data at 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) per user, which is a 5-10 times improvement in bandwidth. Current Wi-Fi systems have similar bandwidth, but it is shared and divided among connected devices.

The new system is called WiFO, which stands for Wi-Fi Freespace Optical Communication System. It could help alleviate crowded networks that cause problems such as videos buffering when too many users are connected at once. WiFo is made of inexpensive components, such as receivers that are small photodiodes that cost less than one dollar each. It uses LED lights that are beyond the visual spectrum for humans, and data is received when devices such as smartphones or laptops are located below invisible cones of light. The researchers say their light-based system can be seamlessly integrated with existing Wi-Fi networks, so that when a user moves away from the WiFo’s light, Wi-Fi would immediately take over without dropping the connection.

In the future, WiFo could be installed in homes or public buildings, such as airports or hospitals. The researchers have secured a provisional patent and they are now looking for a company to license the technology.

Source: Oregon State University | Digital Trends | Photo by ilmicrofono.oggiono

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