LED light bulbs could one day replace Wi-Fi, according to researchers at the University of Edinburgh

By Warren Miller,
contributing writer

If you’re still using old-fashioned halogen light bulbs
around the house, you may want to invest in some LED bulbs in the near future.
Not only do LED bulbs last longer while being energy efficient, they may also
soon increase your downloading speed. Researchers at the University of
Edinburgh have determined that digital data can be transmitted by
light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, without compromising the quality or intensity
of the light they generate. Data transmission can also be performed without
increasing the LEDs energy consumption, according to the research funded by the
Engineering
and Physical Research Council
.

While it’s common knowledge (in certain circles, don’t be
ashamed if you weren’t aware of this) that LEDs can be used to bounce digital
information from one device to another, there’s been a question as to how using
Li-Fi, or light fidelity, would adversely affect the LEDs functioning over
time. The research team used two different data transmission techniques to test
the LEDs, and neither significantly reduced the bulbs’ quality of light or
their life expectancy. They also didn’t produce a measurable difference in the
temperature the bulbs operated at, meaning they don’t consume any more energy
than they do when being used normally. 

LED_Bulb_Pixabay

There’s no dark side
to using LED lights to supplement Wi-Fi. Image source: Pixabay.

Using multiple LED bulbs to construct a wireless network has
some other advantages, too. If one network node burns out, there are still
other nodes nearby that can take on the bandwidth load. This type of built-in
redundancy can be particularly useful in offices or factories where there are
lots of bulbs, providing an automatically ‘self repairing’ wireless network.
Some fixtures could also have a secondary power supply, perhaps battery-based,
in case of emergency power outages. They could provide light as well as basic
network connectivity.

This research could also be the beginning of a big
breakthrough in providing internet access to the millions of people around the
world who don’t yet have it. “Our ever more connected world will need more
bandwidth than the overcrowded radio frequency part of the spectrum can
provide,” said
Dr. Wasiu Popoola
, the lead researcher on the study. “Plugging a key
knowledge gap, our results are very encouraging for the future of light-based
communications that could help realize the full economic and social potential
of a wireless future. It’s vital that LED manufacturers know what impact the
incorporation of data transmission capabilities would have on their products.
Our research shows that there’s no dark side to using LED lights to supplement
Wi-Fi.”

The worldwide problem of shrinking bandwidth might have been
provided a solution; where there was darkness, let there be light.