Fujitsu Forges Li-Fi-like QR Code Replacement

This system uses LED lighting to project invisible identification codes on objects

2 min read
Fujitsu Forges Li-Fi-like QR Code Replacement
Photo: Fujitsu

Forget about QR codes (if you haven’t already). Fujitsu Laboratories, in Kawasaki, near Tokyo, has come up with a much brighter idea: Its researchers have developed a way to embed identification data in LED lighting that can be projected on any object. Like with a QR code, you’d point your smartphone camera to the object to get more information about it. But in the case of the Fujitsu system, it doesn’t require anything to be physically printed or attached to the object being queried, which can be distracting, costly, or otherwise mar something’s appearance.

The idea is that a department store, for instance, can illuminate a particular product with an LED lamp so that customers within a 2-meter range can point their smartphone cameras at the object and automatically get detailed product information without the store staff needing to be involved.

Like a kind of limited, one-way version of Li-Fi technology, the embedded ID data is transmitted by the light and received by the camera at a slow 10 bits per second and is invisible to the naked eye. Data transmission is achieved by modulating the intensity of the light emitted by the  lamp’s red, green and blue (RGB) LED lights. In other words, the LEDs flash in patterns to encode sequences of zeroes and ones. Fujitsu is keeping mum on the details, beyond that.

A Fujitsu app installed on a smartphone preprocesses the reflected LED light to compensate for any light absorbed by the object. The software then extracts the ID data, which is used to call up a webpage with the appropriate information, just like with a QR code—except that in this case the code is invisible.

According to Akira Nakagawa, director of the Image Systems Lab at Fujitsu Laboratories, any kind of light source that enables red, green, and blue to be modulated can be used, and Fujitsu has achieved the same results using projector light.

Nakagawa is envisioning a number of scenarios where the technology could be applied. These include providing merchandise information and, in the future, possible electronic payment services; streaming text, audio, and video information on a museum, art gallery, or tourist site; and for music downloading simply by pointing the phone at a singer on stage lit by the appropriate LED light.

Fujitsu is working to improve the technology’s robustness in the face of interference from other light sources and is carrying out a variety of tests in different environments. Nakagawa says he expects the system to be commercialized by mid-2016.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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