Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK is the only UK institution chosen to take part in the European Commission (EC)-funded €3.75m (£3.44m) Visible light communications (VLC)-based Interoperability and Networking (VisIoN) research project, which will explore how light could be used to allow electronic devices to communicate in the smart homes, cars, factories and businesses of the future. The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 764461.
VisIoN is being coordinated by Dr Mohammad-Ali Khalighi of the Ecole Centrale Marseille, Fresnel Institute, in France, and is supported by six academic and five industry partners from seven European countries including Spain, France, Germany and Czech Republic. The project began at the start of October and will run for four years. Northumbria has been awarded over £440,000 for its part in the project.
Over the last 12 years, Northumbria has developed expertise in visible light communications through its Optical Communications Research Group, led by professor Zabih (Fary) Ghassemlooy. As a key project partner, Northumbria will help to train a new generation of early-stage researchers in visible light communications, as well as contributing to better scientific understanding and technical knowledge in the field. This will include exploring how the technology can be used in smart transportation, and medical and manufacturing environments, with Northumbria academics supporting PhD students, running tutorials and workshops, and writing academic papers.
“Visible light communication (also known as LiFi) is completely transforming the concept of telecommunication,” says Ghassemlooy. “Modern LED lights are extremely energy efficient and long lasting and it is predicted that in the near future LEDs will be the main source of light worldwide. LEDs can also be used for indoor GPS and sensing, thus opening up new frontiers in research in this emerging green technology,” he adds.
“The benefit of LEDs is that they are semiconductor devices… we can switch these bulbs on and off at very high speeds, thus allowing data to be sent from LED lights to devices such as computers, smart phones, traffic signs and a wide variety of other receivers,” Ghassemlooy continues. “This communication takes place faster than the human eye can process, so we would simply see a constant flow of light, providing us with illumination while also transporting data quickly, safely and securely.”
Northumbria’s Optical Communications Research Group focuses on theoretical investigation, simulation and practical implementation of devices, and systems for optical wireless communications, visible light communications, free space optical communications, radio over fibre, and high-speed optical switching and routing.
The group is carrying out pioneering work on visible light communications and organic visible light communications (the first in the world, it is claimed) in collaboration with Siemens (Germany), University College London and others. Northumbria’s Agilent-sponsored Photonic Research Laboratory is the first of its kind in the north of England, with unique test and measurement facilities.
The research group was established by Ghassemlooy, who has published about 700 papers including three books on Optical Wireless Communications. He is also the founder and chairman of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)- and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)-sponsored International Symposium on Communication Systems, Network and Digital Signal Processing (CSNDSP).