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24 October, 2021

Project aims to transmit IoT data on beams of light

15 August, 2019

A consortium of EU businesses and academia partners has embarked on a three-year project to develop a next-generation wireless communications technology that will transmit Internet of Things (IoT) data using light rather than radio waves.

The IoT is placing an increasing demand on the data rates, reliability and latency of wireless connections. With many IoT devices having to communicate within confined spaces, the demand for radio frequencies is increasing faster than previously expected. The ELIoT (Enhance Lighting for the Internet of Things) project will explore and promote the mass-market use of networked wireless communication technologies that operate in the previously unused light spectrum.

“LiFi” is already being used in some offices, schools and medical facilities and, in tests, has reached speeds of 224Gb/s – about 100 times faster than a WiFi connection. The visible-light spectrum is 10,000 times wider than the radio-frequency spectrum and transmissions do not need to be licenced. LiFi does not cause electromagnetic interference, and one of its potential drawbacks – its inability to pass through sold structures such as walls – also offers potential benefits in terms of security.

In one of the first industrial applications, Babcock has installed LiFi at its Connected Facility testbed at Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth. It is using the LiFi technology – supplied by the Scottish start-up, pureLiFi – to gather data from vibration sensors on six air compressors, and to connect a LiFi-enabled Windows tablet to access support and maintenance data such as user manuals and 3D models.

LiFi can perform well in environments where the use of certain radio frequencies is not possible or is prohibited. It could, for example, help to meet higher network demands in applications such as software-controlled production, virtual and augmented reality, and autonomous driving.

The project, which is backed by the EU’s Horizon 2020 r&d programme, will receive €6m in funding from a public-private partnership called Photonics21. Participants include Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Nokia, Deutsche Telekom, Weidmüller, Oxford University, and two Fraunhofer Institutes. More companies are expected to join as associate partners.

“LiFi can deliver high-speed communication, interference-free with high reliability,” says ELIoT’s co-initiator, Prof Jean-Paul Linnartz, who also leads Signify’s LiFi research activities. “The available spectrum can be fully re-used in every room. The lighting infrastructure is in an excellent position to provide wireless connectivity for the rapidly increasing number of wireless devices in every room.”

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