Solar power – Illuminating the future of LEDs

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The technology in LED lights is, quite literally, illuminating the world. As previously reported by Hi5, solar-powered LEDs are proving a very useful light source in many developing countries.

The technology’s potential though, is only just starting to be realized. New uses for the technology are being discovered all the time. One recent development, trialled by Fujitsu and announced at the recent Fujitsu Forum in Munich, is particularly innovative. Fujitsu’s big idea is that their new technology will allow data to be embedded in LED light, which can then be detected and translated by smart phones and other devices.

While this all sounds incredibly futuristic, Fujitsu tell us that the technology is here today, and the possible utilities are already being explored. Here’s how it works: essentially, LED lamps will beam out invisible data. To pick up the data all you will have to do is point your smartphone at the illuminated object and then an App will provide all the relevant information, held on a cloud server.

Thus the internet will provide the platform for linking solid devices (and, as we shall see, perhaps some rather softer organic devices), virtually connecting you to the object concerned. An easy comparison can be made with QR codes, which store information in a matrix barcode. LEDThis information is then accessed by camera phones simply taking a photo of the code. However, this LED technology doesn’t need your smart phone to take an actual picture. Instead, it merely requires the phone to modulate colour within the red, green and blue (RGB) channels in LED lights (already a widely available technology), thereby encoding data, and then transferring it at a modest 10bps.

So, no need to change the characteristics of the light around the object, or to tag it in any way. Simply point the camera of your smart phone towards it and the App will then detect, and communicate, the data associated with that object.

And what might be the uses for such technology? Well as you can encode data for pretty much any physical object, some uses become immediately apparent. For instance, you might include product information, and prices, for items on sale in a shop. Even more exciting, the technology could be used to trigger mobile payments meaning you could purchase goods on the spot.

Equally, you might include information about exhibits in a museum, or pictures in a gallery, so that visitors might read about them without the need to get close up to the printed information panels, whilst also displaying the information in the right language for the owner of that phone.

Further, you could include information about a building – its history or even details about its current occupants. An interesting application for the music industry might be within a live performance setting: a singer takes to a stage lit by these LEDs. Anyone in the audience could then point their smart phones at the artist and download that particular song, straight to their iTunes account. You could even encode data about people (the softer, organic technology), that could then be transmitted; in terms, for instance, of contact details.

The uses for this technology are almost limitless; pretty soon a wealth of information could be just a light switch away.

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