The HomeGrid Forum, an industry alliance that promotes the use of the ITU-T’s G.hn gigabit-capable home networking technology standards, is touting the pairing of G.hn with visible light communication (VLC) for smart home and possibly smart city applications.
“VLC has great potential for smart homes with high-density connectivity needs, especially where sensitive data needs to be transmitted between multiple connected devices within one room, because the light spectrum provides low latency and avoids the kind of interruption that can sometimes happen with radio frequency spectrum during congestion time,” says Livia Rosu, the HomeGrid Forum’s marketing chair. “It supports larger bandwidths, it can act as both a source and receiver, it has low power consumption, enhanced security, and is easy to install.”
Because VLC is light-based, its connectivity is bounded by the requirement for uninterrupted line of sight between transmitter and receiver. While this factor may limit a VLC’s operating range to a single room, there are environments where such characteristics may prove a benefit, according to Rosu. “For environments such as schools and hospitals, VLC reduces electromagnetic interference, therefore not affecting sensitive devices. For airports or government buildings, where there is more sensitive information that can be a target of cyberattack, VLC eliminates the risk of data interception by outsiders which are out of sight, therefore offering a vastly enhanced security platform,” Rosu explains.
Companies have been working on VLC-based communications systems for several years (see, for example, “LightPointe, Firefly Wireless Networks target light-based alternative to WiFi” and "RiT develops indoor free-space optical network technology"). For VLC networks to reach their full potential, installations will require a high-speed backbone – which G.hn can provide for both VLC and complementary Wi-Fi services, the HomeGrid Forum asserts. “G.hn augments spectrum usage and provides security enhancements in addition to everything else. VLC has enormous potential and G.hn system vendors are fully prepared to embrace and support the new technology wave,” Rosu asserts.
The ITU-T ratified its first set of G.hn specifications in 2010 (see “ITU-T approves G.hn as global standard for wired home networking”). The specifications cover a variety of wired architectures, including powerline, coax, twisted-pair and plastic optical fiber. Its use to support VLC adds wireless to the G.hn mix, says the HomeGrid Forum.
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