A new European project wants to find out what light – instead of radio waves – can do for the Internet of Things: ELIoT, Enhance Lighting for the Internet of Things. The project revolves around a technology developed by Eindhoven based Signify that uses LiFi, a next-generation wireless communication network that transmits information through light beams rather than via radio waves, as is the case with WiFi.
For the three-year project, a new EU consortium of companies and academic partners has allocated €6 million. In addition to Signify, the consortium also includes TU Eindhoven, KPN, Nokia, MaxLinear, Deutsche Telekom, Weidmüller, LightBee, the University of Oxford and the two Fraunhofer Institutes Heinrich Hertz Institute (HHI) and FOKUS.
The future Internet of Things (IoT) will put much more emphasis on the speed of data, as well as the reliability and stability of wireless connections. When many IoT devices communicate with each other in a limited space, for example a room in an office building, the demand for radio frequencies will increase much faster than previously expected. The ELIoT consortium will be exploring a networked wireless communication technology that works in the previously unused light spectrum, in addition to Wi-Fi and radio.
The partners in the consortium believe that LiFi has many use cases for commercial, industrial or even outdoor applications. Most obvious is the use within an enclosed space. But it could also function well, for example, in environments where certain radio frequencies are not possible or permitted. For outdoor use, it can offer high bandwidth for point-to-point connections from roofs, between street lights or to consumers’ homes for next-generation networks. These higher network requirements may be the result of software requirements, virtual and augmented reality applications and autonomous driving.
ELIoT has been funded as a project by the EU’s largest research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. This is done within the Public-Private Partnership ‘Photonics21‘. The now affiliated partners expect the group to be expanded further. “With ELIoT, we have created a powerful consortium of companies and organisations from the European lighting and communication industry,” says Dr. Volker Jungnickel (Fraunhofer HHI), who acts as project coordinator. “ELIoT forms a closed value chain with partners representing the components, chipsets, systems and applications sectors and research institutes, working together on the commercialization of LiFi for the future IoT.”
Prof. Jean-Paul Linnartz, co-initiator of ELIoT and also leading Signify’s research in LiFi, confirms the potential of ELIoT: “LiFi can deliver high-speed communication, interference-free with high reliability. The available spectrum can be fully reused in every room. The lighting infrastructure is in an excellent position to provide wireless connectivity for the rapidly increasing number of wireless devices in every room.”