Light Powers Indoor GPS and More


Traditional radio frequency spectrum for wireless communications is becoming increasingly crowded and prone to interference and delay. However, a new technology concept known as Visible Light Communication (VLC) uses light from the visible spectrum to create seamless communications and computing networks.

VLC technologies offer more energy-efficient illumination through LEDs, privacy, speed and the potential to support more data connections than radio frequency. VLC also allows tracking of mobile computing assets.

To advance VLC innovation, the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center (ERC) has designed, tested and distributed packaged LED light sets that simultaneously provide illumination and wireless data. A student-led commercial spinoff ByteLight, aligns with one of the ERC’s high-level objectives–bringing the center’s innovations into the marketplace quickly.

The technology works by directing spotlights to create zones of high data rate delivery to one or more mobile devices in a lighting field. Using identification tags embedded in the data stream, the technology can also locate mobile devices. The center fabricated 40 units of its light-based wireless access point and has distributed them to industry. The device transmits data through rapid “on-off” switching of light and is compatible with devices such as personal computers through a USB connection.

ByteLight has refined the ERC’s technology to create a low-cost indoor GPS system. The company provides products that offer energy savings and value-added functions in retail, hospital and warehouse lighting applications. Services include asset tracking, data analytics and energy management.

The Smart Lighting Center, an NSF-funded ERC, is headquartered at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.