Visible Light Communication, also known as VLC or “Li-Fi”, is one of the hottest trends in communications research. In simple terms, the concept refers to an illumination source (e.g. a LED) which in addition to illumination can send information using the same light signal. The Pervasive Wireless Networks Group of IMDEA Networks led by Dr. Domenico Giustiniano have been performing pioneer work on this topic over the last 3 years. The group has designed and built the open-source OpenVLC platform to promote collaborative international research on this area, receiving particular attention from the researchers and designers of 5G networks and beyond.
A glowing result of these efforts is their publication Passive Communication with Ambient Light, which has been a runner-up to the Best Paper Award at ACM CoNEXT 2016, the 12th International Conference on emerging Networking EXperiments and Technologies, celebrated in December 2016, at Irvine, California (USA). The publication was one of 4 shortlisted for the prize. CoNEXT is one of the most competitive international events on the networking field. This year it received 196 publication submissions and the acceptance rate was only 18.4%. There were approximately 200 people registered, making it the CoNEXT event with the highest attendance rate.
In this work the authors propose a new type of “passive” communication system based on visible light that works for both indoors and outdoors illuminated areas. The authors exploit uncontrolled light sources in our environments -such as any light bulbs in offices and roads or even the sun- as signal emitters. Data cannot be modulated using these uncontrolled light sources as in typical VLC systems. The team instead proposes that the environment itself modulates the ambient light signals. The paper further studies the research challenges of this new communication system.