Visible light for next-gen wireless data?

We've all heard far too much technical jargon about the various competing standards for wireless data transfers, but there's one new method that even those most inured to Wi-Fi, HSDPA or Bluetooth will surely be interested in - visible light.

The technique relies on normal, artificially created light and is known as Visible Light Communications (VLC). The VLC Consortium, which is a group of Japanese companies behind the idea, claims that data transmitted this way can travel just as fast as that sent through a fibre-optic cable - i.e. around 100Mbit/s.

Elegant simplicity

Surprisingly simple, the concept involves assigning either a zero or a one to a particular burst of light, which is then interpreted as such by a sensor at the destination. In other words, it's like a vastly speeded-up version of a signalling lamp used at sea.

Best of all, the transmitters used to emit the data-carrying light can do double duty as normal light fittings, most likely masquerading as overhead ceiling lights.

In operation, anyone needing VLC data would simply stand under a light holding a suitably equipped PC, PDA, phone or any other digital device to receive anything from computer files to music downloads.

Although the range of VLC is limited by how far the light can be evenly cast, the applications are vast. These include disseminating information in public areas, advertising, intelligent car headlights that communicate with street furniture and plenty more that's yet to be imagined.

J Mark Lytle was an International Editor for TechRadar, based out of Tokyo, who now works as a Script Editor, Consultant at NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. Writer, multi-platform journalist, all-round editorial and PR consultant with many years' experience as a professional writer, their bylines include CNN, Snap Media and IDG.