LED lights could become network devices, too!

Today, you've got wireless networks that use radio waves and you've got optical networks that use light traveling in tiny glass fibers. Tomorrow, if Fraunhofer Institute research comes to fruition, a combination of the two could turn led lights into network devices.

The German applied-research lab has developed wireless networking that uses rapidly blinking LEDs to transmit data through the air. The technology can send data at speeds up to 1 gigabit per second -- and by using three colors of light, triple that data rate is possible, Fraunhofer said.

The technology could be useful in crowded, interference-prone situations such as trade shows or for sending information from streetlamps to passing cars, the institute believes.

"My personal belief [is that the] first applications will be on the professional level, such as conference rooms, fair trade booths, industrial production environments, and hospitals," said Anagnostis Paraskevopoulos, a researcher with the institute's photonics network group.

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Fraunhofer's visible light communications (VLC) technology, shown in an artist's conception here, could beam data to laptops and smartphones from conventional LEDs in light fixtures.

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