Obama helps fuel demand for Visible Light Communications.

Obama and VLC

Obama promotes LED light bulbs and wireless data growth

US President Barack Obama is fuelling the drive for VLC through a number of initiatives and funding packages.  He made energy efficiency a priority within months of being elected as president and acknowledged that simply changing a light bulb with an energy efficient one makes significant energy savings.  The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is now actively promoting the use and development of solid state lighting (i.e. LEDs).

In June 2010 Obama announced a plan that would double the available wireless spectrum over 10 years.  This involved identifying parts of the radio spectrum that could be freed from its current use and then the spectrum is auctioned.  This plan clearly recognises the need for additional capacity for wireless communications; however, it does not fully cater for the actual growth in demand.  According to recent research by Cisco [1] the demand for wireless data is more than doubling every year (2.6x for 2010 alone) which suggests that merely doubling the available spectrum over ten years does not come close to satisfying future demand, so VLC may have a role to play for spectrum relief.

In early February of this year I visited Penn State University to discuss their VLC research and narrowly missed bumping into President Obama.  He had visited Penn State the previous day to announce the $150m Better Buildings Initiative, a plan to improve energy efficiency of commercial buildings in the U.S. by 20 percent over the next nine years.  The key to many of these efficiency savings is to have smarter buildings which adapt to the external and internal environments.  This necessitates communications and control within the building and central to this is smart solid-state lighting which includes VLC, an area of active research at Penn State.

There are a number of drivers for green and energy efficient technologies, such as LED lighting.  There are also spectrum supply pressures being observed by the wireless communications industry.  It is now clear that these issues are being addressed at the very highest level and I believe that VLC can be a significant part of the solution.

[1]  Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2010–2015. (1 February 2011) http://www.cisco.com/en/US/solutions/collateral/ns341/ns525/ns537/ns705/ns827/white_paper_c11-520862.pdf

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