Disney Research’s Linux-based LEDs ‘Talk’ Amongst Themselves And With Toys.


A Disney Research team has reached a step closer to the Internet of Things (IoT) by creating Linux-based consumer light bulbs which can transmit and receive data. Visible Light Communication (VLC) technology so far relied on transmission of data via light emitting diodes, but with Linus Light Bulbs, researchers take it a level higher by enabling networking on VLC devices. Their aim is to make room for smarter indoor environments where light could be employed as a medium of communication, and modern LED based light bulbs offer an economical approach in getting get VLC to every room.

A major reason why VLC technology didn’t progress as it should’ve is due to the absence of an internet protocol (IP) layer. Researchers at Disney have added an IP layer on top the VLC Medium Access Control (MAC) and Physical (PHY) layers, which allows for the necessary communication of the LED bulbs with the nodes of the Internet, a mandatory requirement to enable the Internet of Things. This paper lays out in detail how an IP layer is implemented with the use of a Linux-based firmware (OpenWrt). An 8-bit microcontroller with Atheros AR9331 system-on-a-chip is used to run the firmware on the LEd light bulb. The paper further stated how the impact of LED, which are found almost everywhere nowadays, can be further enhanced with VLC functionality, and how this engagement can open a whole new window of limitless applications and possibilities.

Earlier, Harald Haas, a professor at the University of Edinburgh had demonstrated Li-Fi, where a video was beamed through data via an LEd bulb. The speed achieved was almost 10Mbps, and higher speeds have been registered since then on VLC-enabled devices. The Linus Light Bulb, however, achieves but a snail-pace 1kbps, and researchers are further working to improve the speeds. The paper concluded by stating that light-based communication enables a true Internet of Things, as devices, like toys with LEDs, are transformed into interactive IP communication nodes, a feature the researchers term as the Internet of Toys. The future sure is bright.

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