AMONG the many new gadgets unveiled at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was a pair of smartphones able to exchange data using light. These phones, as yet only prototypes from Casio, a Japanese firm, transmit digital signals by varying the intensity of the light given off from their screens. The flickering is so slight that it is imperceptible to the human eye, but the camera on another phone can detect it at a distance of up to ten metres. In an age of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, flashing lights might seem like going back to sending messages with an Aldis lamp. In fact, they are the beginning of a fast and cheap wireless-communication system that some have labelled Li-Fi.
The data being exchanged by Casio’s phones were trifles: message balloons to be added to pictures on social-networking sites. But the firm sees bigger applications, such as pointing a smartphone at an illuminated shop sign to read information being transmitted by the light: opening times, for example, or the latest bargains.
Yet that is still only a flicker of what is possible. Last October a number of companies and industry groups formed the Li-Fi Consortium, to promote high-speed optical wireless systems. The idea is that light can help with a looming capacity problem. As radio-based wireless becomes ubiquitous, more and more devices transmitting more and more data are able to connect to the internet, either through the mobile-phone network or through Wi-Fi. But there is only a limited amount of radio spectrum available. Using light offers the possibility of breaking out of this conundrum by exploiting a completely different part of the electromagnetic spectrum, one that is already ubiquitous because it is used for another purpose: illumination.
Lighten the darkness
To turn a light into a Li-Fi router involves modulating its output, to carry a message, and linking it with a network cable to a modem that is connected to a telephone or cable-broadband service, just like a Wi-Fi router. Incandescent light bulbs and fluorescent tubes are not really suitable for modulation, but they are yesterday’s lighting technology. Tomorrow’s is the light-emitting diode. LEDs are rapidly replacing bulbs and tubes because they are more efficient. And because they are semiconductor devices, tinkering with their electronics to produce the flickering signals required for data transmission is pretty straightforward, according to Gordon Povey, who is working on light communication with Harald Haas and his colleagues at the University of Edinburgh, in Britain.
How much BACON do you see in this picture?
Real-life optical illusion: Tollbooth appears to be warping the road…
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Underground Leaves Used to Trap Prey
Scientists have long wondered why flowering plants of the genus Philcoxia grow leaves underground, and now they finally have an answer. It turns out that the leaves act as traps for tiny roundworms, which the plants then digest. This adaptation is vital to the survival of these plants, as they are native to the nutrient-poor savannas of central Brazil. Only a few hundred plant species are known to be carnivorous, but this finding suggests that there may be many more that have developed less obvious trapping mechanisms. More …
Just so we could have pineapple! hahahahhahaha……
Liliuokalani Becomes Hawaii’s Last Monarch (This Day in 1891)
Liliuokalani ascended the throne in 1891 upon the death of her brother, King Kalakaua. Her refusal to recognize the constitutional changes inaugurated in 1887 precipitated a revolt, fostered largely by sugar planters—mostly American residents of Hawaii—that led to her dethronement early in 1893 and the establishment of a provisional government. Failing in an attempt to regain the throne in 1895, she formally renounced her royal claims. What well-known song was composed by Liliuokalani? More…
Announcing Baconfest Chicago’s 2012 Exhibiting Restaurants Nothing but bacon???? Let me in for sure….
A stone age temple 800 years older than Stonehenge: