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Venture Looks to Deliver Data Via Light Rather Than Wires

By Nikkei Weekly

March 20, 2009

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Visible light communications is a new data transmission technique in which data is sent to devices via light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The method is being researched by Keio University professor Shinichiro Haruyama, and practical applications could include analysis of shoppers' movements in retail stores by LED lights in the ceiling and sensors attached to the bottom of shopping carts. Such a system is about to undergo testing in a supermarket by Nakagawa Laboratories.

Practical visible light communications became possible when LED lights that can blink at rates of more than 2 million times per second were rolled out, and large volumes of data can be transmitted via the conversion of the blink patterns into digital signals. Visible light communications is viable in places such as hospitals where conventional communications methods are not allowed because of their potential to interfere with the functioning of other devices, while another advantage is the lower equipment investment.

NEC, Toshiba, and Nippon Signal have teamed up for studies of LED traffic signals that can share data using light rather than wires, which promises to realize considerable cost savings. Companies are especially excited about visible light communications' ability to transmit information to cell phones, and in October 2008 the Visible Light Communications Consortium voted to unify visible light communications standards with infrared light communications standards.

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