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Basic6 CES2016

GearDb has been keeping an eye on LiFi companies at CES. (view the LiFi category for past posts) LiFi is like WiFi but uses modulated light instead of radio waves. So it was great to see Basic6 at CES 2016. Basic6 is an award-winning tech company (Interop 2014) based in Westport, CT and has partnered with Oledcomm, the French LiFi hardware provider that exhibited the previous 2 years at CES.

Basic6 exhibited a suite of new software and hardware LiFi products. They had a retail floor demonstration where LiFi-enabled tablets receive & display dynamic product information from the nearest LiFi LED lamps. Customer information associated with each LiFi lamp such as number of customers, visit time and duration are logged for customer behavior analysis.

Next there was a data streaming demo used LiFi to transmit encoded music to a LiFi-enabled table radio (Ladio?)  And Basic6 showed their new LiFi adapter which can be placed between an existing LED lamp head and socket base. This adapter communicates with a hub on how it should modulate the light emitted from the LED lamp. Communication between the adapter and hub can be bi-directional using WiFi or other existing wireless RF protocols. (Contact Basic6.com for pricing and availability.)

With Basic6 on the scene, the US market for LiFi has taken a promising step forward.

Visit Basic6.com for more details and some great LiFi explanations – and see their CES blog post for several videos from CES.

 

Securmate showed their concept pocket-sized & portable premise security system at the CES 2016 Eureka Park startup pavilion.  At a minimum, you have a control / communication unit about the size of a medium smart phone and a matchbox-sized sensor (2 AAA batteries) which communicate via WiFi.

You can secure the door(s) or window(s) of a hotel room, a motor home, a dorm room, an apartment or basement storage unit – pretty much any open / close access panel with one or multiple sensors. (no hard-coded limit!)  When a security breach is detected, the sensor signals the control unit which then can text ($3/mo) or email the designated entity.  www.securmate.com

 

Okay, we all know what WiFi is – a short range wireless network connection for our smart phones, tablets and computers.  Most of us even know that radio waves are used to transmit the data.  Well if we use light waves instead of radio waves, we have LiFi.  The fields of Visible Light Communication (VLC), Optical Wireless, and Photonics all contributed to the development of LiFi.  Expectations are that optical wireless data transfer rates can significantly exceed radio wave rates.   Currently, “point to point” optical wireless seems to be further along in commercial product development than the “one point to many” LiFi topology.  LiFi also isn’t (currently) spectrum controlled/restricted by government agencies and it doesn’t add to the bath of radio frequency emissions that surrounds us.

I visited all the LiFi-related booths that I could find at CES.  First was OyaLight.com (from France) which makes interior lighting LED panels that are used by both commercial startup Luciom.com (yup France) and French Government research agency Leti/CEA.  Tricolor!

Then, like Columbus,  I “discovered” the booth for the Center on Optical Wireless Applications (cowa.psu.edu) which is a collaborative effort between Penn State and Georgia Tech with support from the National Science Foundation.   The Beijing Institute of Technology, School of OptoElectronics (english.bit.edu.cn) is participating in COWA and there are also currently 10 industrial partners including Airbus, Boeing, Corning, Lockheed Martin and NEC.   The booth displayed research hardware for a VLC data transmission system and an indoor position locating system.  I really appreciated their patience with all of my basic questions.

The last LiFi exhibitor I visited was OLEDComm.com which is also from France and appears to have actual products to sell and an online catalog and store.  Both Luciom and OLEDComm touted indoor locating systems – possibly the first “killer app” for LiFi.

For the great outdoors, GPS is pretty much king for determining your position.  But since signals from orbiting satellites can’t penetrate most roofs and walls, it (including differential GPS) isn’ t practical for generic indoor applications.   This is where LiFi comes in.  Most indoor settings have interior lighting – even in daytime and close to windows.  With 2014 being the year mass market incandescent light bulb production/importation stopped in the US and thus boosting the popularity of LED lighting, this brings us to the connection between LiFi and LED lighting.  It turns out that LEDs can be easily pulsed to generate LiFi data streams and the optical sensors to read these streams are fairly inexpensive.

So, just like how your GPS in your smartphone can determine where you are, display this info on a road map, and give you directions, a LiFi-enabled device  can display your location and give you directions in a building that has been mapped and has LiFi-capable lights installed.  Each Lifi light would broadcast a unique light sequence (that happens so fast, the human won’t notice) which lets your LiFi smartphone know where you are in the building.

First generation implementations would probably be hybrid and use both WiFi and LiFi.  Position information would come from LiFi but all the other data transfer (map graphics and building data) would go over WiFi.  As LiFi data transfer rates increase, it would replace WiFi.  Who knows what the next round of LiFi apps will be?   The future looks bright.   This is definitely a technology GearDb will be following.

Rover 4G WIFI Hotspot

Rover 4G WIFI Hotspot

Here are exterior and interior pictures of the new Rover Puck 4G mobile WiFi hotspot from Clear Wireless.  The Rover Puck can connect up to 8 WiFi laptops or smartphones to the internet.  How fast is it?  Well the Clear Wireless Rover 4G service is based on the WiMax protocol and can do up to 1 Mbps upload and 3 – 6 Mbps (million bits per second) download.  If you don’t know what a Mbps is, then just think of the Rover being about as fast as a pretty good home broadband connection – yes, this means you can watch video.

How well does it work in real life? Well 4G is very new – it rolled out this Summer and even in major markets, coverage is still being improved and expanded.  I tried out a Puck in Las Vegas and when I was able to get a 3 or 4 (max) bar signal things were great.  However, when moving at highway speeds things weren’t as consistent.  I am told that when moving at “high speed” the connection quality can fall to 1/10 of stationary levels.

In my empirical testing, I’d be watching a video (somebody else was driving!) and then after certain turns or bumps the video would stop.  I also tried the Puck while walking around and it performed about about the same as when stationary.  When walking around tall buildings I did find a few “dead” spots just a few feet wide in some of these urban valleys.

Clearwire is offering the first 2 days of service for free so if you get it I’d suggest you test out your most likely spots and routes right away.  I really like that there is no service contract with Rover – you buy the Puck ($149) or the USB single connection Stick ($99) and then pay $5/day, $20/week or $50/month for the service.

There are just 2 buttons on the Puck, an on/off switch and a signal strength button.  There’s a USB mini connection to power and recharge.  Battery life is about 3-4 hours depending on intensity of usage.  My Puck ran pretty warm when it was plugged into USB power and not in an air conditioned space.  It came complete with a USB power/recharge cable, AC to USB adapter, 12 volt cigarette lighter to USB adapter and a nice “rover” sticker.  There is no external antenna connection.  More information about the Rover service, coverage area and devices at Rover.com