Visible light communication (VLC) uses Light Emitting Diodes (LED), operating in the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum, as optical sources for wireless communication.
The basis of the technology involves switching LEDs ON and OFF within nanoseconds at a very high frequency to relay information to the smart device via the camera.
This pattern of light from the LED luminaires works in a dense network that provides illumination while also functioning as a positioning grid.
As the visible light spectrum is 10,000 times larger than the radio frequency spectrum, VLC is regarded as a solution to radiofrequency (RF) bandwidth limitations. Wireless local area network (WLAN) or mobile connection is not required, however, there must be a constant “line of sight” between the mobile phone camera and the light source.
This causes limitations if the user is walking and puts their phone in their pocket, bag etc, or if the camera is temporarily tilted or blocked. This technology is often coupled with BLE beacons to provide a buffer if the smart device goes “out of sight” of the LED.
Using VLC as an indoor positioning technology allows the retailer to save on energy costs for switching to LED yet due to the issue with a line of sight it requires a vast amount of lighting to be installed throughout the facility.
The data stream is also a one-way street for VLC. Using only light communication means that no data and/or analytics can be obtained from customer movement.
Challenges with the technology:
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