Ever wonder what happened to LEDs as a WiFi alternative
? Well, wonder no more, because visible light communication is here -- in the municipal offices of St. Cloud Minnesota, at least. Starting tomorrow, LVX System, a Minnesota start-up, is installing the first of a series of LED fixtures that will use flashing lights to connect office workers to the internet, while saving big on the electric bill. The fixtures also function as regular overhead lights, using 36 watts of energy where 100 watts were once necessary. The setup consists of clusters of LEDs that switch on and off thousands of times per second at intervals undetectable to the human eye. The flashes emit binary code data -- off equals zero and on equals one -- that is received by special patented modems. Lights on these modems then transmit data back to the fixtures, and voila, you've got internet. According to LVX, light-powered networks are far less crowded and far more secure than their predecessors. Unfortunately, LVX's current incarnation transmits data at about 3Mbps -- a mere pittance compared to standard WiFi or Ethernet. Then again, 3Mbps is certainly fast enough for a city employee to perform really important tasks like keeping track of their favorite gadget blog, so we'll take it.