Tag Archives: LED lights

Disney researchers found a way for devices to communicate using LEDs

Visible Light Communication enables the interaction between objects using only LEDs.

If devices are going to communicate with one other, more times than not it’s going to be done through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. However, wireless networks aren’t always available and Bluetooth can drain battery life. Knowing this, a Disney Research team has come up with an alternative way for Internet of Things objects to ‘talk.’ How, you ask? Through LED lights.


Unlike incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, the brightness of LEDs can be controlled with extreme precision. Meaning, they can be turned on and off at very high frequencies that are faster than the human eye can detect. Aside from that, LEDs can even be used as receivers just like photodiodes.

Similar to how two ships passing in the night can communicate via Morse code, a couple of IoT gadgets can now secretly converse through the visible light generated by an LED — a method that the team calls Visible Light Communication, or VLC. Not only can it illuminate a room, but the MCU inside each bulb is capable of transmitting and receiving data.


“VLC creates opportunities for low-cost, safe, and environmentally friendly wireless communication solutions. We focus on connected toys and light bulb networks,” the team writes. “Our work targets a full system design that spans from hardware prototypes to communication protocols, and applications.”

Though the concept of “Li-Fi” has been around for a while, as expected, it would appear that many of VLC’s initial examples are focused primarily on toys. (It is Disney, after all!) Among them included a toy car that can turn on its own lights and come to life when placed near a lamp, as well as a princess dress whose embedded LEDs are activated whenever a wand with its own light comes near.

“LED-to-LED Visible Light Communication allows interaction between toys by only using LEDs. No dedicated hardware is required. When multiple devices are networked with each other, we organize the communication with our software protocols,” the researchers add.


However, the technology has other potential applications as well, with an adapter connected to the headphone jack of a smartphone or tablet to receive signals from overhead lights operating at wavelengths unnoticeable by the human eye. This, for instance, opens the door for LED emitters to be placed around a store to beam notifications to the smartphones of shoppers.

Using a simple mobile app on the device, the lightbulb data can be used to tell a story and visualize both pictures and text. When off, no data is transmitted. When switched back on, the storytelling continues.

As you can see in the photo above, the researchers employed various Arduino Uno boards (ATmega328) as part of the study’s testbed. Read all about the project here.

Silk LED bulb mimics natural sunlight to help you live better

Silk by Saffron is a smart LED bulb that automatically adjusts its color temperature so you get light tailored to your circadian rhythm.

It goes without saying that our mood and general well-being are directly related with the light in our environment. Yet, the advent of artificial lighting and digital screens has wreaked havoc on our innate circadian rhythm throughout the years. With this in mind, the Saffron crew has developed an LED bulb that can actually sync to its users’ internal clocks to emulate the natural shifting color spectrum of the sun.


Called Silk, the smart LED is said to enhance performance and sleep patterns by providing users with the optimal kind of light over the course of a 24-hour period. Unlike other smart lights on the market today, this 800-lumen unit doesn’t require any management throughout the day. Once it’s turned on, Silk adjusts itself based on the sun and time, shifting from a midday’s cool blue intensity to a warmer, much more soothing tones for the evening.

“You’ve probably read up on the effects of late-night screen use, but the problem is much bigger than that since it extends to all the mundane everyday lights in our homes and offices too,” the Utah-based startup explains.

Each bulb has two banks of LEDs inside — one that contains cool colors and another with warmer hues — that mix together to create the right balance. Simply screw them into a lamp and overhead lights, then control them wirelessly from a central ZigBee bridge. Using Saffron’s unique nClick program, which allows for an existing light switch to control the bulb, a user can also toggle their Silk between dimmer/brighter and cooler/warmer settings with a single click, or via its accompanying app.


The Silk app, which is compatible with both iOS and Android devices, enables a user to create their own zone-based schedules and switch behaviors to meet the lighting needs of any given situation, whether that’s a morning yoga session or an afterwork dinner gathering.

Currently live on Kickstarter, Saffron is seeking $100,000 on Kickstarter. The only downside is that you’ll have to wait until January 2016 to get your hands on them.

Soothing blankets with an Arduino LilyPad

A weighted blanket is often used to help soothe individuals with sensory integration issues such as autism. Annuska Perkins of Good Labs has been experimenting with Atmel-powered Arduino LilyPads to enhance standard weighted blankets by making them more interactive and soothing, all while heightening their guided play capabilities.

Image credit: ITworld/Phil Johnson

Perkins recently showcased a number of e-textile Good Labs prototypes at the Tech@LEAD conference in Washington, DC.

“Among the LilyPad-powered items Perkins brought was a blanket with a sensor that will trigger a buzzer when covered up by your hand,” Phil Johnson of ITWorld reported. “Then there was the Blinkie Blanket, which uses 5 LED lights, triggered by touch, which can help, for example, to guide the user in relaxation.”

In the future, says Johnson, Perkins hopes to enhance the blanket by providing biofeedback capabilities, allowing it to connect with other devices to promote social interaction.

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the Arduino LilyPad is a microcontroller board designed for wearables and e-textiles. It can be sewn to fabric and similarly mounted power supplies, sensors and actuators with conductive thread. The board is based on Atmel’s ATmega168V or the ATmega328V.

Electronic textiles, often powered by Arduino’s LilyPad, are typically used by artists to integrate sensors and LED lights into clothing, which can then be programmed for informative feedback and artistic purposes.