General Lighting Future wireless technology

For Paris Metro Stations, Lifi is the new Wifi

You’ve heard of WiFi, but have you heard of LiFi? LiFi is an emerging technology which would essentially move the internet out of your router, and into your light fixtures. This fast-developing optical wireless communications technology could help increase the capacity of wireless data networks, and provide some promising benefits along the way.

What is Li-Fi?

Wireless fidelity
, or WiFi, uses UHF and SHF ISM radio bands to allow wireless devices to exchange information. LiFi is a very similar concept, except it uses the visible light spectrum, or VLC,  to transmit data. The lighting spectrum is 10,000 times larger than the radio frequency spectrum, which would add an enormous boost to the size and speed of wireless communication capabilities. LED technology has brought the idea of LiFi closer to reality, due to it’s superior controllability and reliability.

LiFi may soon have its first broad application in a surprising place: the Paris Metro. The Metro has a quarter of a million lights in its 302 underground stations and its 66 commuter rail stations. Currently, the lights are being replaced with LEDs as part of a $12 million effort to upgrade the system and make it more energy efficient.

The timing of this project is fortuitous. While other subway systems are looking into costly upgrades to provide WiFi in their tunnels, the Metro has the advantage of piggybacking onto the current lighting upgrade. The manager for the light replacement project has confirmed that since June, the Metro has been looking at the feasibility of taking advantage of the project’s timing to install LiFi technology in the Paris Metro.

LiFi does have its limitations. Most notably, VLC has a much shorter range than the radio spectrum. The visible light spectrum also cannot transmit through walls or other barriers.

These disadvantages, however, can be turned into advantages. In a confined space such as the Paris Metro, passengers do not have to worry about range limitations or WiFi dead spots. The signal will be available wherever visible light can reach. The space limitations of LiFi can also enhance user security because hackers are not able to access the signal from remote places.

doctor hospital

LiFi can be used in other applications, such as secure facilities, where the only users accessing the signal are the ones that are already inside. LiFi can also be used in electromagnetic sensitive areas such as hospitals or airplanes.

As LEDs continue to increase in popularity on the market, the cost of installing LiFi can potentially be folded into the expenses already incurred in upgrading lighting infrastructure. The Paris Metro project would be the first example of a large scale public use of LiFi. If successful, it may provide the blueprints for others to upgrade to this promising technology.


General Lighting Future Future of technology LED

Solar LED Lights Improve Quality of Life in Developing Countries

Residents of developed countries such as the United States often take lighting for granted. For individuals in economically developing countries, illumination is an expensive proposition. In underdeveloped countries the poor spend 100- to 1,000-times more per unit of light than those who are connected to the grid, and yet they only have access to 0.1% of the illumination enjoyed by the first world. The lights they use are primarily fuel-based: candles, kerosene, propane, diesel, battery-powered flashlights, traditional materials such as wood and grass, and even discarded rubber tires.

Inefficient Resources Contribute to the Cost

The preponderance of fuel-based lighting in poorer countries indicates how inefficient energy use can be in these areas. The expense of burning fuel traps people in poverty, and has a massively detrimental environmental impact, with greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to the exhaust output of 30 million cars. Fuel-powered light sources threaten health and safety, impede the livelihoods of those who use it, and saddle governments with energy subsidies that are often crippling.

A decade ago, there were very few solutions to the problem of lighting in most developing countries. Solar power was aggressively promoted as an energy efficient answer, however the cost of installing solar panels often equated to a family’s entire annual income. Wireless LED lighting has recently emerged as a possible solution to this problem. With ultra-low wattage bulbs now on the market, in addition to the decreasing price and size of solar cells, lighting systems are now available that are ready for immediate installation, with no professional assistance required.

solar lighting kids

Wireless Lighting for Developing Nations

Today’s market features a multitude of high quality solar-LED products with varying features and light output capabilities. Prices range from about $10 to $75 and typically pay for themselves within a year, while the energy involved in manufacturing them is recouped with a few weeks.

Non-profit organizations, such as Solar Aid, have introduced solar-LED lights to many economically poor countries, with many more eagerly following suit. Consumers in underdeveloped countries have happily adjusted to the technology. Solar Aid alone has sold over 1 million lights in five African countries. The sales rate continues to grow at a rapid pace of 30% a year. Product offerings have increased as well, including phone charging capabilities and other extended functionalities. As miniaturization of LED and solar devices continues to inspire more portable technology, additional end uses including flat screen televisions, small fans, and other appliances, are now hitting the market.

Low product quality and financing problems initially hampered the success of some of the products, but quality has continued to increase, while mobile money is making a difference in how consumers in remote areas pay for these life-changing items. With more than 40 companies making portable LED products and a 30 percent growth rate, improved energy access is now available to more than 35 million people in Africa, across 25 countries.

General Lighting Future LED

The Strange Reason Turtles Are Hyding on Jekyll Island

Environmental authorities have discovered a sharp decline in the number of nesting sea turtles on Georgia’s Jekyll Island, and it appears that light pollution is to blame. 111 nests were counted on other areas of the island this year, with only 1 discovered on the beaches in front of the newly opened Westin Hotel. Prior to the hotel opening, the beach hosted an average of 8 turtle nests a year. Sea turtles can lay hundreds of eggs in one nest, and the loss of 7 nests is an exponential decrease in the number of potential turtles that have the ability to be born on and live near the island.

A Different Kind of Pollution

The drop in turtle nests around the beachfront property directly corresponds with the opening of the Westin Hotel, which began operating in April, when turtle nesting season was getting underway. The hotel was cited in May by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Senior Wildlife Biologist, Mark Dodd, for 10 lighting noncompliance issues. The citations include partially shielded fixtures, light leaking from windows and individual lights, such as pool, balcony, and tree lights which are all guilty of light pollution.

Sea turtles face a variety of environmental challenges thanks to mankind, but artificial lighting remains the largest threat. Female sea turtles prefer to nest on quiet, dark. Bright lights discourage them from laying eggs. If they do manage to nest on a brightly lit beach, the resulting hatchlings will be easily disoriented. Upon hatching at night, turtles are usually drawn to the sea by the soft glow of light reflecting off the ocean. Artificial lights draw them inland, where they inevitably can not survive.

hiding turtle

An Obvious Solution

Mark Dodd and David Egan, a co-director of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, are in agreement that the height of the building and the lighting violations have created an especially unfriendly zone for sea turtle nesting in the area. Hotel officials have said they are working to achieve compliance, but that there is no time limit due to the complexity of the project. However, according the letters that were sent to the Westin regarding the infractions, once notified they have 10 days to comply before they are considered to be in violation of the terms of the lease.
Incidents like these underscore the importance of developing technologies, such as wildlife friendly LED lighting. While it may not be possible for the hotel to encourage every guest to close their blinds at night, they could easily replace many of the offending outdoor fixtures with amber LED. Amber LED emits light at a frequency and color temperature that does not negatively affect local wildlife. Not only does wildlife friendly LED cut down on light pollution, it also has the undeniable benefits of LED efficiency.

General Lighting Fixtures Future Future of technology Internet of Things IoT Technology wireless technology

Lighting Networks Could Make For a Wonderful Tomorrow

We are barreling head first into the next generation of the internet. After ecommerce, social media and the cloud, connecting everything is the obvious next step. The trend has been called the “Internet of Things”, or IoT. The connected devices can be as simple as sensors and security cameras or as complicated as vehicles and production machinery. Bosch Software Innovations expects before 2022 there will be 14 billion connected devices.

The Internet of Things

IoT refers to the network of objects embedded with electronics, software, sensors and the capability to connect which are able to exchange data. Generally, the capability is used to communicate with manufacturers, operators, or other devices. For instance, Ford, is working to create cars which are able to “sense” one another and their outside environments, thereby preventing collisions due to operator error.

The term “the Internet of Things” was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton. It is expected that, as wireless technology  continues to advance, the interconnection of embedded devices will allow for automation in nearly all fields. In fact, the automation industry already depends heavily on IoT technology. New applications for IoT innovations are being developed every day, and it appears that lighting may play an important part thanks to VLC.

Visual Light Communication, or VLC, can best be explained with a metaphor: imagine using a flashlight to send a message using morse code. Turning the flashlight off and on at specific intervals expresses the message. VLC works much the same way, except that the light transmits the message via flickers which occur so quickly, our eyes can not perceive them.

Given that our cities, homes, cars and cell phones are brimming with usable light, it makes sense that researchers would seek a way to combine efficient lighting technologies with the communication requirements of an IoT world. Streetlights can be fitted with sensors which are able to monitor urban environments. With their height and numbers, streetlights could be highly effective at detecting air particulates and providing important ecological data about the quality of a city’s air.

Have you ever had trouble finding a parking space in the city? Streetlights could help with that problem, too. Siemens has developed a system whereby sensors would detect cars, motorbikes or even motorcycles that are parked illegally and send an automatic signal to the authorities. Now, pair that same technology with a smartphone app and you have a system that can tell you where the open parking spots are and if they are even big enough for your car.

In Newark Airport, a wireless network of lights has already been implemented which is able to monitor the movement of people and vehicles. This enables the airport to observe traffic and travel patterns, predict outages or delays with higher accuracy, and send marketing promotions. Mostly, the system is used for security and maintenance purposes. Apparently it’s still not good enough to replace the lengthy pat-downs at security, though.

IoT and VLC have more attractive, less Big Brother type applications as well. The Philips Hue LED bulb is capable of communicating with your television set. Once synced to your TV, the bulbs will flash, pulse, dim or change color in accordance with what is happening onscreen. Imagine watching that action film on a big screen, with surround sound, and bright flashes of light every time something explodes on screen. Who needs movie tickets when you have an immersive theater at home?