Fraunhofer HHI has been working with the Hegel-Gymnasium in Stuttgart, Germany, to upgrade a classroom with special LED lighting. Unlike the lighting in most classrooms, the lighting for this project will be able to communicate technology using visible light communication (VLC). The lights now power an optical WLAN environment using Li-Fi as an alternative to conventional WLAN technology.
Now, Isabel Fezer, Mayor of Youth and Education of the city Stuttgart, has opened the classroom of the demonstration project. “I am happy about the start of this extraordinary research project and look forward to the results of its practical application.”
The VLC technology referred as Li-Fi is a possible alternative to traditional WLAN technology.
Li-Fi uses modulated light from off-the-shelf LED lighting system components with slight variations in light intensity to encode data for transmission. This communication technology avoids interference with radio signals or magnetic fields. Another potential advantage is that the signal only goes as far as the edge of the room, potentially acting as a built-in security measure to limit who can access the communication. Also, the technology avoids some of the RF bandwidth limitations.
One drawback of the technology is that the demo does not yet allow for the possibility of roaming within the room and switching from one light source to another to get the Li-Fi signal.
Fraunhofer HHI Classroom Demo to Show Li-Fi Potential and Direct Future Research
From Berlin, the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute HHI is working on the further development of this technology. Fraunhofer HHI intends to demonstrate the potential of this technology with this classroom field test and help focus future research.
“The modern schoolroom needs new solutions for flexible data exchange. We believe that the VLC technology offers a genuine alternative to radio-based systems. Our project, thus, contributes to a digitalization of the classroom,” says the project manager at Fraunhofer HHI, Dr. Anagnostis Paraskevopoulos.
The Institute says that the current equipment, including VLC tabletop modules and the VLC ceiling light are still in the prototype stage.
Li-Fi Expected to Supplement Wi-Fi and 5G for IoT Connections
After further development of the technology, Fraunhofer, and many lighting industry experts expect LED lighting makers will eventually integrate the technology into the room lighting. Also, other industries such as makers of smartphones, and terminal equipment such as laptops could one day come equipped their products with Li-Fi technology. Li-Fi is expected to supplement Wi-Fi and 5G to help provide links to IoT connected to devices.
The school intends to plan and adapt lessons in order to intensely incorporate the use of the Li-Fi system. The teachers and students will help evaluate, describe, and document the technology their experiences.
The new principal Frank Bäuerle elaborated, “We are happy that our students are involved with a sensational research project, which is concerned with high-speed data communication without electromagnetic interference. Our teaching staff and students will gather experiences on the level of sophistication of the Fraunhofer HHI VLC-modules, as well as on which pedagogical concepts make sense with this technology. In this way, we will be able to assist in the identification of future technological development.”
Part of the funding for the project comes from the €500,000 that the municipal council of Stuttgart allocated to improve IT equipment in schools. The school administration office and the municipal building authority also supported the project through adjusting the room infrastructure.