The technology, which uses LED lights, can be integrated with existing Wi-Fi systems to reduce bandwidth problems in crowded locations, such as airport terminals or coffee shops.
LED technology developments have made it possible to modulate the LED light rapidly, meaning that a “free space” optical communication system is possible.
The system uses inexpensive components.
The prototype, called Wi-FO, uses LEDs that are beyond the visual spectrum for humans and creates an invisible cone of light about one metre square in which the data can be received. To address the problem of a small area of usability, the researchers created a hybrid system that can switch between several LED transmitters installed on a ceiling, and the existing Wi-Fi system.
Thinh Nguyen, an OSU associate professor of electrical and computer engineering said the Wi-FO system could be easily transformed into a marketable product, and he was looking for a company that is interested in further developing and licensing the technology.
The system can potentially send data at up to 100 megabits per second. Although some current Wi-Fi systems have similar bandwidth, it has to be divided by the number of devices, so each user might be receiving just five to 10 megabits per second, whereas the hybrid system could deliver 50-100 megabits to each user.
In a home where telephones, tablets, computers, gaming systems, and televisions may all be connected to the internet, increased bandwidth would eliminate problems like video streaming that stalls and buffers.
The receivers are small photodiodes that cost less than a dollar each and could be connected through a USB port for current systems, or incorporated into the next generation of laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
A patent has been secured on the technology, and a paper was published in the 17th ACM International Conference on Modeling, Analysis and Simulation of Wireless and Mobile Systems.