Ceiling lights in Minn. send coded Internet data

Dec 27, 2010 By CHRIS WILLIAMS , Associated Press
In this Nov. 22, 2010 photo, John C. Pederson, inventor, chairman and CEO of LVX System, talks in their St. Cloud, Minn., offices about their patented technology that allows data transmission using LED lighting. (AP Photo/Kimm Anderson)

(AP) -- Flickering ceiling lights are usually a nuisance, but in city offices in St. Cloud, they will actually be a pathway to the Internet.

The lights will transmit data to specially equipped computers on desks below by flickering faster than the eye can see. Ultimately, the technique could ease wireless congestion by opening up new expressways for short-range communications.

The first few light fixtures built by LVX System, a local startup, will be installed Wednesday in six municipal buildings in this city of 66,000 in the snowy farm fields of central Minnesota.

The LVX system puts clusters of its , or LEDs, in a standard-sized light fixture. The LEDs transmit coded messages - as a series of 1s and 0s in computer speak - to special modems attached to computers.

A light on the modem talks back to the fixture overhead, where there is sensor to receive the return signal and transmit the data over the Internet. Those computers on the desks aren't connected to the Internet, except through these light signals, much as Wi-Fi allows people to connect wirelessly.

LVX takes its name from the Latin word for light, but the underlying concept is older than Rome; the ancient Greeks signaled each other over long distances using flashes of sunlight off mirrors and polished shields. The Navy uses a Morse-coded version with lamps.

The first generation of the LVX system will transmit data at speeds of about 3 per second, roughly as fast as a residential DSL line.

Mohsen Kavehrad, a Penn State electrical engineering professor who has been working with optical network technology for about 10 years, said the approach could be a vital complement to the existing wireless system.

He said the usually used for short-range transmissions, such as Wi-Fi, is getting increasingly crowded, which can lead to slower connections.

"Light can be the way out of this mess," said Kavehrad, who is not involved in the LVX project.

But there are significant hurdles. For one, smart phones and computers already work on Wi-Fi networks that are much faster than the LVX system.

Technology analyst Craig Mathias of the Farpoint Group said the problems with wireless congestion will ease as Wi-Fi evolves, leaving LVX's light system to niche applications such as indoor advertising displays and energy management.

LVX Chief Executive Officer John Pederson said a second-generation system that will roll out in about a year will permit speeds on par with commercial Wi-Fi networks. It will also permit lights that can be programmed to change intensity and color.

For the city, the data networking capability is secondary. The main reason it paid a $10,000 installation fee for LVX is to save money on electricity down the line, thanks to the energy-efficient LEDs. Pederson said one of his LED fixtures uses about 36 watts of power to provide the same illumination that 100 watts provides with a standard fluorescent fixture.

Besides installation costs, customers such as St. Cloud will pay LVX a monthly fee that's less than their current lighting expenses. LVX plans to make money because the LED fixtures are more durable and efficient than standard lighting. At least initially, the data transmission system is essentially a bonus for customers.

Pederson said the next generation of the system should get even more efficient as fixtures become "smart" so the lights would dim when bright sunlight is coming through a window or when a conference room or hallway is empty.

Because the lights can also change color, Pederson said they could be combined with personal locators or tiny video cameras to help guide people through large buildings. The lights could show a trail of green lights to an emergency exit, for instance.

While Kavehrad and Mathias credited LVX for being the first company in the United States to bring the technology to market, Kavehrad said it trails researchers and consumer electronics companies in Japan and Korea in developing products for visible-light networks.

Pederson's previous company, 911 EP, built high-powered LED roof lights for squad cars and other emergency vehicles. He said he sold the company in 2002. He said the visible-light network grew out his interest in LEDs that goes to the mid-1990s.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, which pays for 24-hour lighting and replacing fluorescent bulbs on high ceilings, is considering an LVX system, said Jeffrey W. Hamiel, executive director of the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

The system might include mounting cameras on the light fixtures to bolster the airport security system, but the real attraction is the savings on electricity and maintenance.

"Anything we can do to save costs is worth consideration," he said.

Michael Williams, the city administrator in St. Cloud, said the city had been considering LVX for some time.

"It's pretty wild stuff," he said. "They have been talking about it with us for couple of years, and frankly it took a while for it to sink in."

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User comments : 40

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alq131
4 / 5 (2) Dec 27, 2010
...not really a new concept, but still interesting...
http://www.freesp...ault.cfm
Dennis_Cutter
3 / 5 (6) Dec 27, 2010
The ceiling lights are talking to me, Their out to get me, their flashing in my eyes now, I can't resists them, I can feel them in my brain, Bwahahahaha!!!
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (6) Dec 27, 2010
Good stuff.

this is precisely the sort of thing I was referring to as an "optical port".

Now also picture this scaled down and inside a computer in a 3-d architecture. It becomes not only a way to communicate between computers, but a way to communicate between components within the computer.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (9) Dec 27, 2010
Good stuff.

this is precisely the sort of thing I was referring to as an "optical port".

Now also picture this scaled down and inside a computer in a 3-d architecture. It becomes not only a way to communicate between computers, but a way to communicate between components within the computer.

You have heard of fiber optics, right?
Quantum_Conundrum
1.6 / 5 (7) Dec 27, 2010
You have heard of fiber optics, right?


Well duh, who hasn't?

Fiber optics is a "wired" optical port, which is a bit different and inflexible as compared to this. It works great over long distances, but isn't "flexible" like this.

What I am talking about is just like what this article is. You want a "wireless" optical port based on a dynamic light/laser signal across space.

The example I gave was the laser reader on the cash registers at the supermarket, except in reverse.

Sending a laser pulse to a detector the same way radio works.

Essentially "sign language" for computers, which doesn't work on the same frequency as radio, so then you have near infinite bandwidth, at least locally.

Your smart phone could network with a PC or another smart phone wirelessly, but not using a radio frequency either, but using laser light across space, etc.
Quantum_Conundrum
1.6 / 5 (7) Dec 27, 2010
With fiber optics, if you want to change a network's architecture, you have to literally unplug a modem or router and add or remove components.

With a laser port, the computer(s) can dynamically add and remove connections just by re-orienting it's laser and detectors.

Or it could be in "broadcast mode" whereby it uses normal light to send the same signal to multiple receiving computers simultaneously in a single step. This could have uses in multi-threaded applications distributed accross networks, inwhich one thread needs to send output to the other threads. Potentially future A.I. attempts or gaming or simulators run on cloud servers, for example.

Think of it this way. You are in a class room and the teacher and students represent computers. The teacher presents a problem and asks "who has the answer?" all students heard problem about the same time...she didn't need a seperate signal for each student...the fastest student answers by raising his hand. Do this with servers...
Pyle
5 / 5 (2) Dec 27, 2010
SH,

You are so narrow minded, just like fiber optics. I think what QC is talking about is twitter for your computer components. Fiber is limited as communication from one end of the fiber to the other. It will be a different world when all of your hard drive's component friends will know when he has finished breakfast and is heading to the mall. Heck, they might finally start coordinating their outfits.
Quantum_Conundrum
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 27, 2010
So the "teacher" can simulaneously teach all "students" and then query all "students," for comprehension, etc.

So in this sense the optical port concept can work in a 1 to 1 mode, which effectively works like any other port in a network, or it can work in a broadcast mode which works like a classroom learning setting, where people can give and receive feedback and criticism to and from multiple listeners or speakers simultaneously.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (4) Dec 27, 2010
With fiber optics, if you want to change a network's architecture, you have to literally unplug a modem or router and add or remove components.

With a laser port, the computer(s) can dynamically add and remove connections just by re-orienting it's laser and detectors.
So what you're saying is we should make it easier to reconfigure networks.

That's already been done as well. You've heard of virtual machines and virtual switches, correct?

How exactly do you propose this works without
1) random lasers beaming around a room subject to every form of obstruction available (dust, radiative currents, physical obstruction)
2) massive wastes in energy, re-transmission
3) being subject to ever more sensitive components that are wholly unnecessary

We have fiber optic, you can network it. Design your systems more efficiently, don't try to reinvent the wheel.
Quantum_Conundrum
1.2 / 5 (5) Dec 27, 2010
Now if I have a future PC, then at the Chip level and the machine level, I have optical buses based on nano-scale lasers and detectors, or some other nano-light source, then I can have cut out a lot of wires used for buses, which saves space and energy.

Then at the network level, we use optical ports to supplement existing technology to allow near-infinite bandwidth, at least within the local network.

Because each computer is fully contained in a case, optics inside any one machine never interfere with optics outside itself, even if they run on the same frequency.

Now if you want to think about the speed of light and the wavelength of light, the theoretical rate of data transfer both within individual computers, and between computers on the network (in line of sight of one another,) is several orders of magnitude higher than anything you could muster with any existing "long range" networking technology.
Skeptic_Heretic
4.5 / 5 (4) Dec 27, 2010
Because each computer is fully contained in a case, optics inside any one machine never interfere with optics outside itself, even if they run on the same frequency.

Except when two components interfere with each other in "broadcast" mode.
Then at the network level, we use optical ports to supplement existing technology to allow near-infinite bandwidth, at least within the local network.
Not possible or we'd already be doing it with fiber optic.
Now if you want to think about the speed of light and the wavelength of light, the theoretical rate of data transfer both within individual computers, and between computers on the network (in line of sight of one another,) is several orders of magnitude higher than anything you could muster with any existing "long range" networking technology.
Except for fiber optic, which has the added bonus of not requiring line of sight.
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (5) Dec 27, 2010
We have fiber optic, you can network it. Design your systems more efficiently, don't try to reinvent the wheel.


Ah you clearly don't get it. Poor guy.

Wired connections for networks, including fiber optics, are limited by the number of wires and routers you can squeeze into a building.

What I'm talking about is sort of like if you walk into a room and say, "Hey John." Everyone may turn and look, but only John answers. And then if you say, "Hey Peggy," only Peggy answers.

As to your dust argument, well, the laser at the supermarket does a pretty good job considering the tags aren't oriented, and there's often dirt and moisture to deal with, and it usually works.

A cloud computing server farm is a much cleaner and controlled environment than the checkout lane at a supermarket. If it works in the dirty environment most of the time, it surely will work in the much cleaner environment.
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (6) Dec 27, 2010
Except when two components interfere with each other in "broadcast" mode.


You're not very creative, are you? You design the computer in such a way that such cannot happen. Such as gauranteeding the optics are of sufficient distance and frequency difference not to interfere.

Not possible or we'd already be doing it with fiber optic.


Last time I checked, smart phones don't come with 10 miles of fiber optic attached, and it would be nice to have them networked to other devices besides just via one satellite channel or one USB port. Again, your lack of creativity is disappointing, like that guy who said we'd never need more than 256kb of RAM...

Except for fiber optic, which has the added bonus of not requiring line of sight.


So what? You still don't get it. It'd be nice to have two smart phones, or any two computers, talk to one another directly without a damn wire, analogous to the same way humans talk to one another.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (4) Dec 27, 2010
Ah you clearly don't get it. Poor guy.

Wired connections for networks, including fiber optics, are limited by the number of wires and routers you can squeeze into a building.
And you're suggesting that we further limit that by including moving parts akin to satellite dishes in the data center that require perfect line of sight to function and will suffer from interference constantly.
What I'm talking about is sort of like if you walk into a room and say, "Hey John." Everyone may turn and look, but only John answers.
You're trying to compare this to broadcast arp, which stops all network traffic momentarily, how does your system make this more efficient?
As to your dust argument, well, the laser at the supermarket does a pretty good job considering the tags aren't oriented, and there's often dirt and moisture to deal with, and it usually works.
Oh boy, the fundamental misunderstanding on your part involved here could take a year to fix.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (4) Dec 27, 2010
So what? You still don't get it.
No, you don't get it.
It'd be nice to have two smart phones, or any two computers, talk to one another directly without a damn wire
And they already do.
analogous to the same way humans talk to one another.
This all goes back to the complexity of the brain vs the complexity of program code. You're never going to understand this, are you?

You think I'm not getting it, and you're not open to recognize the criticism before you. Good luck with your overly complex and supremely inefficient idea. I hope you get to bring it to fruition so someone else can explain it to you.
Pyle
4 / 5 (2) Dec 27, 2010
Coming back into it. Twitter doesn't make a lot of sense, but we use it, and sometimes it is even used productively (at least I have heard so on the interweb so it must be true.)
QC's idea isn't really "new" but it I believe there could be practical applications for what he is suggesting; not necessarily as he is currently suggesting it. Keep thinking on it and bouncing it off people and I am sure we'll see it beyond municipal buildings in Minnesota.
SH, why do you always have to be so right?
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (5) Dec 27, 2010
So your saying that there will never be anything better than running a fiber optic cable between individual chips and between individual computers?

That's completely laughable, you moron, else we wouldn't even have smart phones and other mobile devices in the first place.

Don't you look at any of the articles on here? Haven't you seen the articles about 10nm optical detectors and a couple nanometers laser? What purpse do you think that has, if not to serve as a pure optic bus within and between chips on a motherboard?

So you think an 3-d optical computer is going to have miles and miles of nano-scale fiber optic cable inside of it? Is that about right?
hylozoic
5 / 5 (3) Dec 27, 2010
QC and SH are funny. Reminds me of Itchy and Scratchy.
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (3) Dec 27, 2010
So you think an 3-d optical computer is going to have miles and miles of nano-scale fiber optic cable inside of it? Is that about right?


The cable itself will take up too much space, just like wires.

Look at a motherboard and just how much of the space is wired buses between devices.

If you just changed to fiber optics, it wouldn't even make much difference, and would take about the same space as wired buses. But if you had arrays of precisely aligned lasers you could move the chips much closer to one another in 3-d, and you don't have to use up as much of your space on wires. The reason half the wires on a motherboard are so long si because they have to go between and around other long wires. If you could remove some wires all together via lasers and detectors, then even for those things where wires can't be removed, the bus lengths would shrink.
Skultch
5 / 5 (5) Dec 27, 2010
QC,

The "inside the computer" part of your idea has nothing really to do with this article's tech. Even inside the case/chip/whatever you would have to separate the light "networks" to avoid interference. This is essentially no different than fiber optics.

The limitation of fiber is not bandwidth (yet). It's packet switching. We don't have switches or routers powerful enough to process that much throughput (yet). It's a RAM/CPU bottleneck.

Smartphone smartphone? It's called beaming, and it uses infrared, so basically the exact same thing as you suggest. It's extremely low power, thus distance. Increasing that would consume too much battery power for constant broadcasts. Maybe a battery innovation could expand this tech. RIM has certainly considered all options.

Classroom? - You would need a power outlet at every desk.
Skultch
5 / 5 (4) Dec 27, 2010
On chip? - You still need modulation at each end. The miniaturization tech isn't even close (yet).

I'm trying not to be a debbie-downer, but I design WiFi networks for a living, among other network engineering, and I'm just calling it like I see it. Call me defeatist if you want; you'd be wrong.
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (3) Dec 27, 2010
Classroom? - You would need a power outlet at every desk.


Of course you realize, computers all have their own power supply in any network I ever heard of anyway?

Morever, a few decades from now when we start to have self-intelligent robots (A.I.) how will they communicate? Surely you can't expect everything to be operating on the same frequencies.
--

But lets look at this scenario.

Computer A and computer B are in the same room, and we have a worst case scenario. A is in the bottom, back, left corner of the room, B is in the top, right, front coner of the room. Room is cube. With fiber optic or ethernet cable, to save space in room we have cable go around the walls and ceiling of cube, so cable traveled 3X distance for cube of side length X. Meanwhile Laser goes straight across. Pythagorean theorem gives distance as sqrt(3)*X, which is 20% to 42% shorter than a cable running along or through the walls and ceiling...
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (3) Dec 27, 2010
http://www.youtub...=related

Start at the 25:00 mark. Found this online a while back.

These are university professor giving seminar on self-improving A.I. Watch how fast they are talking about computers and the size of them.

Do you think that's going to be wires and fiber optics to do a gigaflops inside a few micrometers of space?
Skultch
5 / 5 (3) Dec 27, 2010
Of course you realize, computers all have their own power supply in any network I ever heard of anyway?


Classrooms have desktops or laptops at every desk, all receiving AC power? Where is this magical land of ubiquitous copper wiring? How is this land better than the much thinner, cheaper, faster, Cat5e wiring?

Morever, a few decades from now when we start to have self-intelligent robots (A.I.) how will they communicate?


Hold on..... I'll ask Ray Kurzweil.....

But lets look at this scenario.


Raised floors is easier and cheaper, but still more expensive than bluetooth or WiFi with smartboards.

I'm not saying it's dumb or anything; I'm just saying that you have to compare the total solutions' cost/benefit ratio.
Skultch
5 / 5 (3) Dec 27, 2010
http://www.youtub...=related

Start at the 25:00 mark. Found this online a while back.

These are university professor giving seminar on self-improving A.I. Watch how fast they are talking about computers and the size of them.

Do you think that's going to be wires and fiber optics to do a gigaflops inside a few micrometers of space?


Sorry, you came off as implying your theory could be implemented immediately. I must have gotten the wrong vibe.

Do I think optical on-chip or over-the-air broadcast networks could exist in the future? Sure, why not? 10 years or so, I would guess, off the cuff. There seems to be quite a few engineering challenges of different types. Yeah, 10 years or so. (At work, can't watch video for a few hours.....)
Husky
5 / 5 (1) Dec 27, 2010
one word spinplasmonics, coupled with fractal antenna and transmitters in the Thz range
altino
not rated yet Dec 27, 2010
Who knows about the 4 mile microphone?
DamienS
not rated yet Dec 27, 2010
QC and SH are funny. Reminds me of Itchy and Scratchy.

Heh, heh, of course SH being Itchy! :)
A_Paradox
not rated yet Dec 28, 2010
hylozoic-
QC and SH are funny. Reminds me of Itchy and Scratchy.

you naughty person you! :-)

The thing is both sides have some good ideas and neither a monopoly of truth. I can see that the modulated illumination signaling methodology could have in situations where the arrangement of furniture, fittings, and storage structures is subject to constant change, for example in warehouses. I think maybe there could be a niche application in certain kinds of underwater operations.
Feldagast
not rated yet Dec 28, 2010
How is this different than infrared technology thats in any remote control? This sounds like 1 way communication only. How many of these will it take to completely cover a large room? What if someone walks between your computer and the mounted lights? How fast can this really be, compared to say gigabyte ethernet? This sounds more like a solution waiting for a problem. Reminds me of the story of NASA spending a whole lot of money developing a pen that would work in outer space, the Russians just used pencils instead.
CHollman82
5 / 5 (2) Dec 28, 2010
With fiber optic or ethernet cable, to save space in room we have cable go around the walls and ceiling of cube, so cable traveled 3X distance for cube of side length X. Meanwhile Laser goes straight across. Pythagorean theorem gives distance as sqrt(3)*X, which is 20% to 42% shorter than a cable running along or through the walls and ceiling...


Let's see...

First, you think that physical distance traveled has anything at all to do with transmission rate, which is hilarious to begin with.

Then, you think that beaming laser radiation directly across the center of a room, presumably one that may be occupied by people and furniture and other things, will work AT ALL...

...and finally you think that over the air communication is some new revolutionary idea instead of something that has been around for hundreds of years and is usually selected against due to it's inherent reliability problems, which is the reason we typically use wired communication in the first place.
Skeptic_Heretic
4.2 / 5 (5) Dec 28, 2010
SH, why do you always have to be so right?
I can only be right when I investigate skeptically. Saying that, I was born skeptical.
yyz
5 / 5 (3) Dec 28, 2010
@Feldagast,

While I am largely in agreement with your earlier post, this sentiment...

"Reminds me of the story of NASA spending a whole lot of money developing a pen that would work in outer space, the Russians just used pencils instead."

...is just that, a story.

Easy enough to verify through Google (NASA space pen, etc).

(Won't let me post a link)

TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (8) Dec 28, 2010
Do you think that's going to be wires and fiber optics to do a gigaflops inside a few micrometers of space?
Like CHollman82 said, hasnt somebody already thought of this, and if not how come?? Ive heard of rf on a chip, or maybe ir like feldgast says, because it works well around corners. Have you done any research QC? What about wifi and bluetooth? What about optimal frequency for capacity? What about terahertz? What makes YOU think this is in any way an original idea just because YOU thought it up??

We've had this discussion before as I recall.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.6 / 5 (7) Dec 28, 2010
Theres this:
hxxp://www.marketwatch.com/story/analog-devices-radio-system-on-chip-combines-data-conversion-rf-and-32-bit-processing-to-enable-power-efficient-wireless-connectivity-2010-11-08

-or this:
hxxp://www.google.com/search?q=rf+intrachip&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7ADRA_en

-or here you go:
hxxp://www.google.com/search?q=rf+intrachip&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7ADRA_en#hl=en&expIds=17259,17315,23628,23670,23945,25041,25646,26761,26849,27272,27520,27613,27642,27732,27889,28097&sugexp=gsihc&xhr=t&q=laser+intrachip&cp=5&pf=p&sclient=psy&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&rlz=1I7ADRA_en&source=hp&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=laser+intrachip&gs_rfai=&pbx=1&fp=7b989c6c17f79c85

-Sorry phizzork has a new spam filter-
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.6 / 5 (7) Dec 28, 2010
Heres one:
hxxp://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101201212401.htm
gunnie
not rated yet Jan 02, 2011
The power usage comparison of 36W for LED against 100W for fluorescent is very questionable. Commercially available LED's will give about 80 lumens/watt, fluorescent T5 about the same. Both have a certain amount of losses attached, but there is no way the fluorescent has 3x that. An LED fixture is however far more expensive. As for the dimming, that's an old hat and already available for many years with DALI systems.
AkiBola
not rated yet Jan 03, 2011
This technology more or less only makes sense because it is piggybacking onto an LED light installation to save power over incandescent or flourescent. Even then, WiFi seems to have it well beat for now.

What if you want to work in the daytime with the LED lights off? Do they have black LED's yet :)
Feldagast
not rated yet Jan 04, 2011
YYZ,
ok NASA didn't develop a space pen, Fischer did. But even if not true it still shows the mindset of some to reinvent the wheel when wheels work perfectly fine as is.
I_Dont_Have_A_Name
not rated yet Jan 05, 2011
You have heard of fiber optics, right?


Well duh, who hasn't?

Fiber optics is a "wired" optical port, which is a bit different and inflexible as compared to this. It works great over long distances, but isn't "flexible" like this.

What I am talking about is just like what this article is. You want a "wireless" optical port based on a dynamic light/laser signal across space.

The example I gave was the laser reader on the cash registers at the supermarket, except in reverse.
bla bla bla ....


One word. Dust.
Have you seen what is in most desktop computers? It's FUBAR! Oh noes 1 micro gram of dust in the way, looks like my 320 page story is lost :(