Today's installment of whose lighting industry is it comes from Japan, where computing giant Fujitsu has developed a method to integrate data and LED light - and to potentially use the technology to convey information about objects everywhere from retail stores to museums, galleries, concert halls and city streets.
The light-and-data technology could even replace the ubiquitous bar code.
The Fujitsu system is a bit like a fledgling technology known as Li-Fi - which uses light rather than Wi-Fi radio signals to transmit data across an area like a room – but Fujitsu literally focuses on objects instead of wide spaces.
The technique modulates red, green and blue colours to embed data about an object into LED light. The modulated light then shines on the object. Users with smartphones cameras can point at the object, capture its reflected light and interpret the data.
Fujitsu posted a press release about the technology on its website, and said that it will demonstrate it at Fujitsu Forum in Munich this week with hopes of implementing it commerically in 'fiscal 2015.' Fujitsu's year ends on March 31, so by that measure it could deploy the technology within the next four months.
In its press release, it envisioned a number of uses, including: transmitting data about an item on a retail shelf to a shopper (and eventually supporting payments and delivery); streaming videos about an object in a museum; providing information about an historic building.
Fujitsu noted that the technology potentially eliminates unsightly physical tags, such as bar codes.
'By embedding data in light in a way that it is not detectable to the naked eye, an object that has been illuminated can convey data to a smartphone or other smart device,' the press release states. 'With previous technologies, data could only be conveyed to a user's area, but with this technology, data can be conveyed at the level of an individual object. To capture the data, a user only needs to point a camera at the object. This technology enables products in a store, works of art, people, buildings and a variety of other objects to be the source of data transmission.'
It seems like barely a week goes by without several examples of well-known companies from other industries wading into the lighting business now that lighting is going digital via LEDs – light-emitting diodes - and many things can be digitized into a connected 'Internet of Things.'
In recent weeks alone, Nokia has invested in intelligent lighting company Digital Lumens, Deutsche Telekom has begun offering an app-based lighting control for Philips LEDs, and, automaker BMW has entered the lighting industry with a combination streetlight and electric car charger.
Not only does it make one wonder whose industry it is, but it also poses the question: How long before Google makes a major play?
Image is a screen grab from the Fujitsu website