Using an array of LED transmitters and receivers, Outstanding Technology has set up the Commulight System which beams information to iPhones, iPads and Android devices using VLC.
VLC (as well as being a choice media player) stands for Visible Light Communication. This is an interesting new type of Wi-Fi that sends information across short distances using beams of light instead of using radio signals. With a VLC transmitter in a fixed location, phone and tablet owners can slot light receiver dongles into the 3.5mm jack or USB port.
The advantage that VLC has over traditional Wi-Fi is that it can be deployed in places where radio signals perhaps aren’t that effective or feasible.
Speaking to Diginfo, Fumitaka Murayama, president of Outstanding Technology says:
“Radio reception is limited by space constraints, so it’s not possible in narrow tunnels, for example. But using light enables communication as long as the light can be seen. Conversely, with radio signals, sometimes you can’t communicate even if you can see each other. Also, if we make the equipment waterproof, which we haven’t done yet, this system can also be used underwater.”
It wouldn’t be a true Japanese tech product if it wasn’t waterproof now would it?
If VLC takes off perhaps we’ll see Virgin Media adopting it in a future upgrade of the London Underground Wi-Fi network. Or maybe an airline will work out how to embed VLC into overhead lights. You could get future in-flight movies beamed directly to your iPhone 4S or Transformer Prime that’s got one of these plugged in. American Airlines has given out Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1’s to first class customers since last summer, so there’s a natural fit here.
Disadvantages of VLC mean that line of sight (with a 50 centimeter margin) is needed for a connection to work. Murayama thinks that the places where VLC laser Wi-Fi will be most useful will be museums and public galleries, used in conjunction with indoor mapping and to beam information to phones.
Obviously though, your phone can’t double as one of those clunky old museum audio guides of you’ve surrendered your 3.5mm jack for a Commulight receiver.
Perhaps someone ought to invent a Commulight attachment for the 30-pin port on iPhones and iPads…