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Philips Ethernet-Powered Lighting Transmits Data To Mobile Devices Via Light 104

llebeel writes Philips has shown off its Ethernet-powered connected lighting, which can transmit data to mobile devices through light via embedded code. Arriving in the form of LED "luminaires," Philips' connected office lighting will aim to not only save businesses money on energy costs, but also serve as a means of providing information and data about the general running of a building, transmitted through light, to improve the overall efficiency of business infrastructure. Philips' Onno Willemse said, "Over the light, we can project a code — its number, its IP address, its MAC address — making each fixture unique and recognizable. We can also receive that light on our mobile phones, so if you hold the lens of a mobile device under the luminaire, it actually reads the code and makes a connection to it over WiFi."
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Philips Ethernet-Powered Lighting Transmits Data To Mobile Devices Via Light

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  • by Jody Bruchon ( 3404363 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2014 @02:13PM (#47370551)
    This is surely the rise of the machines! THEY'RE IN THE LIGHTS!!! D:
  • 1990 called (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2014 @02:14PM (#47370563) Homepage

    1990 called. It wants its IR LAN back.

  • by gweilo8888 ( 921799 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2014 @02:16PM (#47370591)
    ...if you're a lighting manufacturer wanting to lock customers into your products. What, pray tell, is the *real*-world advantage for the customers, though? Because I'm struggling to see anything this provides which couldn't be done better using a different technique.

    Yet another Slashvertisement for a pointless invention.
    • ...if you're a lighting manufacturer wanting to lock customers into your products. What, pray tell, is the *real*-world advantage for the customers, though? Because I'm struggling to see anything this provides which couldn't be done better using a different technique.

      It might suck to need a different app for each manufacturers' lights, but that's all this is going to end up being. But being able to perform on-the-spot diagnosis using your cellphone is actually pretty cool. In theory, you could do this sort of thing with ye olde Flash using the camera control, and have it be platform-agnostic. Less so than in the past, perhaps :)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      We've discovered enough technology to manage the whole developed world comfortably and have everyone working not more than 3 days a week.

      But that wouldn't keep the idiot leeches at the top in power?


      Capitalism gives us great technological progress (so does Stalinism - see '30s-'40s USSR), but it does not ease our burden.

    • by ChadL ( 880878 ) *
      The use I can think of is the ability of office workers to change the color (presuming these are similar to their Hue bulbs) and brightness of the lights over their cubes (as they could use their smartphones to identify said lights and connect to them without going through some central system) or in their offices rather then being stuck under florescent lights or with the same color/brightness for everyone that the office management decided on using.
      Not a really great use, but its better then no use. I'd
      • While it probably wouldn't catch on in the vast majority of places, I could see a few smaller/newer companies doing that. It'd look pretty damn cool too having all sorts of colors through a cube farm, and make it feel much less like it's actually a cube farm, both for the workers and visitors.
    • by transporter_ii ( 986545 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2014 @03:00PM (#47371013) Homepage

      1) Everybody and there dog has a wireless product, so the spectrum is getting pretty darn crowded. No interference from RF!
      2) RF signals easily pass right through your walls where people can capture and examine them. More secure...even adds some obscurity to the mix (for now)
      3) Some people claim to be sensitive to RF emissions. They will probably complain about this as well. However, less RF emissions in your workplace.
      4) Can route around blockage -- metal walls, etc., -- that might affect RF.
      5) Could be more cost effective than wifi, especially for a large building or hotel. Don't know yet.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      The advantage to the customer, I don't know. But it seems like a massive data leak waiting to happen. It would not seem difficult to transmit corporate information, in a way that the APP would just ignore, but so that someone standing outside of window could capture. Definitely, at this point, movie plot threat, but something to consider.
      • but so that someone standing outside of window could capture

        You mean like someone in a Google data-collection car?

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Researchers are getting gigabit speed in the shade and faster with direct line of sight. I don't know what sort of speed can be reliably achieved with multiple inputs and outputs but it's looking like finished products are going to be much faster than consumer WiFi at a similar cost.
    • You would only see this as pointless if you considered a light to be a light. In many cases, especially commercial installations they are so much more. Intelligent office lighting that is activated by a central authority, PE cell, or motion detection all the same time like in many commercial buildings are a real outright pain in the arse to configure. If there were some simple way to communicate with and configure one single light it would be a godsend.

      One of the industrial control system vendors we deal wi

  • PWM (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Peppered with PWM to give you a headache? Well, the frequency is probably so high that it won't be an issue, but I still prefer my room lighting LEDs with pure DC.
  • by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2014 @02:21PM (#47370631)
    30 years ago we proved you could video-capture 9600-baud modem lamp pulses to transfer/sniff data using light. This is just a variation on that practice.
    • I thought that modem thing was an urban legend. Even if the RX/TX LEDs would represent actual bits on the line, wouldn't you still need a super-high-FPS camera?
      • by six ( 1673 )

        You'd only need a super high fps device that detects on/off state of the light, which I guess would be a lot easier and cheaper than a real camera.

      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        An NTSC video camera records ~480 scan lines every 1/30 second. So, a full scan line would represent about 1 bit at 14400 bps. If you recorded a de-focused LED, so it was recorded full frame, you'd get the bits if the sensor were fast enough (i.e. didn't integrate over the time between scans). If rx/tx were different colors, you could probably get both at once. It should be relatively easy to decode, but you'd be missing some bits during vertical retrace.
        • if the sensor were fast enough

          Mm, there's your problem.

          • by msauve ( 701917 )
            Want to elaborate? Like with some facts and not just a blanket dismissal?

            It's been done [] using a PIN photo-diode. I make no claim that it could be done with a 20 year old consumer camcorder, but there were pro cameras with 1/20,000 shutter speeds available. Whether that applied on a frame or pixel basis, I don't know, so I'm not willing to dismiss the possibility out of hand, as you do. It's believable to me that there were commercially available cameras capable of doing it.
      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Since rs-232 could easily power LEDs, the cheapest way to implement the RX and TX lights was to connect them to the actual serial lines. Use a photodiode rather than a camera and you're all set.

        And, it was actually demonstrated.

    • 200 yrs ago we proved electric cars were viable (
      2000 yrs ago we proved steam engines worked (

      This doesn't diminish the significance of it as a useful product.

  • Cool! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2014 @02:40PM (#47370815)
    "802.11e" - "e" for epilepsy.
  • by johnrpenner ( 40054 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2014 @02:47PM (#47370873) Homepage

    if every lightbulb is going to have an IP address — they better be using IPv6.. ;-]


    • by ChadL ( 880878 ) *
      These are embedded devices so they would need to be on a firewalled off network (presumably allowing access from the byod wifi to allow control from selected smartphones) anyway to keep them from being internet-hackable, as they aren't likely going to get patches for security and protection from disgruntled employees who have the lights ips/keys already.
      That being the case, there is little reason to use public IP's for them at all (since the entire range would have to be completely firewalled off, so using
    • I have to wonder why they need an IP address at all, a MAC address would suffice if you are always on the same LAN (which you would be if you're under the lamp). I wonder when we'll need to go to 128-bit MAC addresses.
      • An autoconfig ipv6 address is the mac with some static bits shoved on.

        128 bit mac's are fairly useless nothing should else have a broadcast domain that large. 64 Bit would seem to be the next step as that allows full use of the ipv6 default subnet of 64 bits

        • by amorsen ( 7485 )

          An autoconfig ipv6 address is the mac with some static bits shoved on.

          Not anymore. Practically everyone implements the privacy extensions, and most do not generate a MAC-based IPv6 address at all.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Nah, they'll just NAT the NATTED NAT and run it all through NAT.

  • by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2014 @03:05PM (#47371071)
    It would have been interesting to see the light itself powered using PoE and have it forward the LAN traffic optically. Presumably the LED itself can cycle on and off and be a receiver during the off period, or be coupled with a separate optical receiver for the return path. I see that now IT security needs to be more involved with the lighting management !
    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's what nuLED does.

  • I'm not that excited about the IP information being sent by the lights. Kind of cool, but I think it's an application waiting for a use. Using Power over Ethernet for the lights themselves is pretty damn cool. Easier to set up lights (you only need a CAT5 cable, instead of electircal cabling, etc), and, assuming your switch has a good enough UPS on it, you can have lighting that will stay up during a power outage.
    • Seems easier to run mains or even a dedicated 12v line for the LEDs. PoE goes up to 25W I believe, good for 3/4 brightish LEDs, while a single mains cable will power hundreds.
    • Wasting power to run LEDs in a goofy way, negating some of the benefit of using LEDs. (vs florescent which they only just caught up with and still have a greater total cost last time I looked into it.) The electronics pulling power from ethernet also come with losses... thing is an office building is going to multiply it much more than a household.

      CAT5 isn't the way to run low Volt power distances. Using your typical 14G wire is going to lose power over 12V as well, but not as much. Yes, I realize the tot

      • by mirix ( 1649853 )

        PoE, the standards complying versions at least, 802.3af (IIRC), do run at 48V. As it is about the highest you can go with shit insulation and not be required to meet real safety standards, while at the same time battling I2R losses with get brutal on long runs with low voltages.

        I agree though, unless a room only has one 20W lamp, CAT5 isn't the way to be powering it...

        If we want to save copper, we should do what we do now. Wire houses with 220V, and switch down at the load.

        • I just assumed the post was correct about 12V-- 48V makes far more sense especially given US code limits DC to 48V (or 50V I forget; either way I still think it is as lousy as their solar panel V caps... 6V will kill you under the proper conditions.) otherwise, the standard might have gone higher.

          Good idea about 220V but US stuff is 120V; I suppose one could wire up the house and use cheap plug adapters all over the place. We can do 240V, which I do have wired in a few places but that takes another wire! It

  • Lights should illuminate things. Refrigerators should refrigerate things. Stoves should heat things, air conditioners should cool your air to a certain temperature, and coffee makers should make you coffee. They don't really need to do anything else. They don't all need Twitter accounts. I don't want my workplaces' lights to talk to my cell phone and tell some server somewhere where I was and what I was doing. That is a.) creepy and b.) almost certainly pointless.
    • How is an air conditioner supposed to know what temperature you want it to be without an Internet connection?

      • I think you're joking, because for a consumer that's not necessary, but when you have, say, whole office buildings with centrally controlled zoned heating and cooling they may not need *internet* but they damn well do need some some of sensor and control network. And once you have that making it at least monitorable over the internet can have some real benefits.
        • Oh yes, office buildings would certainly need that kind of network, and it would be very useful if it could be monitored over the internet. But the minute you start building controls to change the temperature over the internet, you're asking for trouble. And don't try to tell me no one's going to try to do that; this comment is on an article about lights that can talk to smartphones!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      But...but...they've finally solved that age-old problem: how do you tell if a light bulb is burned out?!

      Now all you have to do is hold your phone up to the fixture, check an app, and voila! You too can tell if you're in the dark or not!

      • Q. How many software engineers does it take to change a light bulb.
        A. None, we don't do hardware!
        • Q: How many hardware engineers does it take to change a lightbulb?
          A: None. We tell the software engineers to patch around it.

  • Great (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Now I have to worry about buying cheap LED lightbulbs from China trying to root my devices.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Call me when the token ring version is ready.

  • Another quote, one that wants a fix:

    Philips' Onno Willemse said, "Over the light, we can project a code — its number, its IP address, its MAC address
    "Philips' Onno Willemse said, "Over the light, we can receive a code — its number, its IP address, its MAC address"

    Fixed that for 'ya.

  • Stick to what you know I suppose. Maybe next we will see Bose illustrate how data can be transferred by sound waves...
  • Sure, PoE can transmit 36 W (if all eight connectors are used), but lighting a whole office that way? That's one incredibly efficient luminaire!
  • by aklinux ( 1318095 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2014 @07:00PM (#47372721) Homepage
    This idea was being bounced around back in the 80's. Wouldn't be surprised if someone with a good collection of Byte Magazine from back then could find mention of it.
  • - Honey, can't you turn the strobing 100W lights down while we watch this romantic movie?

    - No-can-do, that would kill the Netflix stream

  • by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2014 @11:25PM (#47373787) Journal

    Hemisphere-wide communication by strobing The Sun!! Mwahahahahaha...

    Of course, the latency sucks (9 min both ways) but I'm working on it.

    'Scuse me, I'm off to Kickstarter...

  • Nuf said, de dah di di

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll