Optical Wireless Communications


“Visible Light Communications” or VLC is used to describe the use of optical communications in free space using the visible spectrum. The use of visible spectrum implies certain challenges and opportunities. These include directionality, which conspires to limit one-to-many communications; and background noise and reflections from other light sources such as the sun, which interferes with reception. The frequency of visible light is also very high (400—800 THz) with the potential for enormous data capacity. However, we are not yet able to exploit this capacity with suitable electronics. Instead, the intensity of the light signal can be controlled very nicely, and a wide variety of modulation techniques can be applied to this signal.

Providing VLC through lighting will primarily contribute to productivity gains outlined in the Strategic Plan, with additional benefits for efficiency and health and safety. The benefits of VLC are well described through four categories of transformative outcomes: (1) Breaking the Wireless Traffic Jam, (2) Energy Neutral Wireless Access for Free, (3) Enabling Communications in Dense, Fast-Moving Safety-Critical Automotive Settings, and (4) Seamless Coexistence with Diverse Networking Technologies.

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