Fraunhofer HHI successfully completes installation of Visible Light Communication pilot

The “VLC Mainau” project was launched in the spring of 2015 with the objective to convert an existing conference room on the Island of Mainau (Lake Constance) using Visible Light Communication (VLC) technology. Now the project has been successfully concluded by the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich Hertz Institute, HHI and Mainau GmbH with the realization of a novel optical WiFi environment.

The conference room system was upgraded in several phases intended to offer insights about parameter optimization in view of practical applications. This VLC installation outside a laboratory environment is the first in Germany and one of the few field tests of this kind worldwide.

A first VLC-based system was installed in the conference room during the first project phase. Also known as LiFi, the VLC technology is a WiFi alternative that supports the wireless exchange of large data volumes. The VLC technology was then expanded in the second project phase, providing flexible access to the Internet for multiple users.

“This first VLC installation on the Island of Mainau was a very exciting project for us. We very much appreciate the constructive collaboration with Mainau GmbH and the financial support of the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Environment. Today we are looking back on one year of continuous, error free operation of the installed system. Highly positive feedback from users shows that this technology will find a place in everyday life. The constructive comments are already being implemented into the further development of our systems today”, says Dr. Anagnostis Paraskevopoulos, Project Manager at Fraunhofer HHI.

The VLC technology

The demand for wireless communication networks within buildings will continue to increase in the coming years. Visible Light Communication offers an alternative, which uses LED-based light sources for data transmission purposes. Through the higher number of access points, a significant increase of the network capacity can be achieved while retaining the mobility which users want.

Visible Light Communication avoids all electromagnetic interferences with radio-based wireless networks and is by definition RF-free. Data rates of one gigabit per second (1 Gbit/s) and more can be achieved with conventional LEDs, thus even allowing for the flawless transmission of video data in HD and 4K quality. Just a few additional components are needed to turn a conventional LED light into a powerful optical WiFi transmitter. A special modulator turns the LED on and off very quickly, thus transmitting the digital information.

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