Lightbulbs to replace Wi-Fi?

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Researchers at the University of Boston have managed to come up with a way of transferring data through lightbulbs. It’s not quite as crazy as it sounds – fibre-optics uses light to transmit data, but in a much more focused way. The researchers propose to use LEDs flickering at imperceptible speeds to communicate with network-enabled devices at speeds between one and ten megabits per second.

Although that’s not very fast for video streaming or online gaming, it’s more than enough for an internet enabled fridge, photoframe or printer. Those kinds of devices are the target that the researchers are going after – bringing the digital home one step closer to reality.

The researchers also claim that this technology would be more secure than traditional radio frequency Wi-Fi because line of sight would be required for devices to be attached to the network. That’s possibly true, but I’m sure it’d be easy enough to get the signal from considerably further away, too, using some sort of telescopic arrangement.

Also, what happens if you stand between the light and the network device? I don’t fancy losing connection to my toaster just because I’m casting a shadow over it. One of the researchers, Prof. Thomas Little, said:

“Imagine if your computer, iPhone, TV, radio and thermostat could all communicate with you when you walked in a room just by flipping the wall light switch and without the usual cluster of wires.”

He sounds like an excitable chap. Is this something you’d get installed in your house? Or is it a phenomenal waste of research cash? Spew forth in the comments.

Cellular News (via Engadget)

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Duncan Geere