The simple light bulb has been around in one form or another since Edison invented the first commerciall practical globe in 1878, but it’s currently experiencing a significant technological shift. The bulb is becoming personalised and hyper-connected, dancing to music and predicting our movements, as Antony Funnell writes.
Imagine all the lighting in your house pulsing to the song you’ve just chosen on your iPod. Red, blue, yellow—any, and all colours—the bulbs in their sockets interpreting the music with the synchronic precision of a fireworks display.
‘You can turn LEDs on and off very quickly, which means that you can communicate data with them,’ explains Karlicek. ‘People are starting to talk about visible light communications because we are running out of RF spectrum [needed] to communicate data wirelessly. So light is unregulated spectrum essentially—we can modulate the LEDs to transmit data.’
And by modulating light at very high speeds, LEDs also have the ability to sense the position of things. ‘You can figure out whether people are standing, sitting or have fallen, and you can do this with modulated light and sensors that are designed to detect these kinds of signals,’ he says. ‘The lighting system can start using the photons that it emits and the time dependence of those photons to be able to sense its environment.’