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European partners to develop 'li-fi' for smart buildings of the near-future

03 Oct 2017

Northumbria University is key partner in Horizon 2020 "VisIoN" project on Visible Light Communications.

Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK, is taking part in a multi-million pound research project exploring how light can enable electronic devices to communicate in the smart homes, cars, and factories of the future. The €3.75m (£3.44m) Visible Light Communications based Interoperability and Networking (VisIoN) project is funded by the European Commission.

Over the past 12 years, Northumbria has developed significant expertise in the field of Visible Light Communications (VLC) through the work of its Optical Communications Research Group, led by Professor Zabih (Fary) Ghassemlooy.

As a key partner in the VisIoN project, Northumbria will help to train researchers in the emerging area of visible light communication, as well as contributing to better scientific understanding and technical knowledge within the field. The work will include exploring how the technology can be used in smart transportation, and medical and manufacturing environments.

Professor Ghassemlooy commented, “Visible Light Communication, also known as Li-Fi, is transforming the concept of telecommunications. Modern LED lights are highly 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, opening up new frontiers in research.

“The benefit of LEDs is that they are semiconductor devices, which means 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 other receivers.”

The VisIoN project is being coordinated by Dr. Mohammad-Ali Khalighi of the Ecole Centrale Marseille, Fresnel Institute, in France, and supported by academic and industry partners from across Europe. The project begins this week and will run for four years. Northumbria alone has been awarded over £440,000 for its part in the £3.44m project.


The other academic project partners comprise: Photonic Networks & Systems Department at Fraunhofer HHI, Germany; Department of Electromagnetic Fields at Czech Technical University, Prague; Institute for Telecommunications Development at Universidad de las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain; Integrated Circuits Group at Instituto de Telecomunicações, Portugal; and CT&T Research at Ozyegin University, Turkey. Industry partners are: Osram, Germany; Indra and Lightbee, Spain; Ford Otosan, Turkey; Oledcomm, France; Philips Research, Netherlands; Network Rail, UK; and SQS Vlaknova Optika ,Czech Republic.

Northumbria University’s Optical Communications Research Group, established since 2005, 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 fiber, and high-speed optical switching and routing.

The group is carrying out pioneering work on visible light communications and organic visible light communications 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 state-of-the-art test and measurement facilities.

Project details

Interviewed by optics.org, Professor Ghassemlooy explained more about the two parallel pieces of Visible Light Communications research involving his department:


”Project 1, The European Training Network on Visible light based Interoperability and Networking (VisIoN) aims to train new generation of creative, talented and innovative early-stage researchers in the emerging area of VLC and to enable close collaboration between academic and industrial partners towards industry orientated applications.

”VLC offers significant technical and operational advantages and a wide range of application areas. It is one of the most promising current areas of research with a significant potential for high-impact results and successful outcomes, which will revolutionize the wireless telecoms market dominated by RF-based solutions.

“Research in VLC requires the training of personnel with a solid understanding of optical communications and photonics devices/sub-systems along with a background on wireless communications, information theory, and physical and upper layer protocols.”


”Multifunctional Polymer Light-Emitting Diodes with Visible Light Communications (MARVEL), Project 2, is aiming to develop the world's first complete VLC system, using organic/polymer optoelectronic components, and to demonstrate this in realistic system settings. In this project we are partnering with University College London and it is funded by EPSRC.

In this proposal, we will design and fabricate: Polymer light-emitting diodes and detectors; transceiver electronic circuits and digital signal processing algorithms and optical wavelength division multiplexing components. The designed devices and sub-systems will be integrated into a complete VLC system, transmitting data under realistic environmental conditions.

”Furthermore, specially optimised signals and modulation formats will be designed to achieve 100s Mbit/s capacity over a transmission span 1-2 meters (a typical office/home range) and assess performance in a specially assembled indoor environment. Fabrication and testing will be mainly done at the participating institutions with contribution from one industrial partner.”

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