EPSRC RISE - Professor Harald Haas, University of Edinburgh

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Professor Harald Haas, University of Edinburgh meets Jonathan Legh-Smith, BT.

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Jonathan Legh-Smith – Head of Partnerships & Strategic Research, BT [JL]

My name is Jonathan Legh-Smith. I am head of partnerships and strategic research in BT. We are currently sitting in our customer showcase at our global R&D headquarters in Dashfield Park near Ipswich.

I’ve been paired with Professor Harald Haas from the University of Edinburgh. Harald is famous worldwide as pioneering the research into lifi using LED’s for wireless networking technologies. The potential for BT is perhaps self-evident, it’s a new form of wireless technology with a huge amount of potential, we suspect, for new innovative applications.

Professor Harald Haas – Chair of Mobile Communications, University of Edinburgh [HH]

LED’s are electronic devices, a little bit like a transistor, and so they can not only be used to illuminate spaces, but they also have additional properties that make them ideal for data communication devices. We have developed that technology, where we can modulate an LED light source to transmit data, and we believe that we can have a technology that is potentially disruptive in creating entire new applications. We can’t even imagine what that space is.

[JL]

Right now what we are doing is using the opportunity that RISE has given to us to explore what sorts of applications and scenarios we might make use of it for, for our customers directly or indirectly in need of a solution.

[HH]

We had feedback saying Yes, it's great, but what about the use in a mobile phone?, so we thought about it and we turned the camera in smartphones into a visible light data detector. The camera receives data from a lightbulb.

What we have is a modified LED light source that transmits data. We can programme the light source that transmits the message. We can type in any message we want, for example: EPSRC RISE, and then we press send. We start the app and we hold the camera into the reflective light and what we should get is a message that is passed through the light. We have the message here: EPSRC RISE. So we can change the message and we can transmit any message we want using the light source, using an off the shelf smart phone.

We have recently achieved in the lab, through a project funded by EPSRC, close to four gigabit from a single micro entity. That’s far more data rate than you would get now with wifi and that is why we talk about an emerging industry, not just an emerging technology. It is applicable underwater, in oil rigs, our home appliances such as ovens and our kettles. They all have indicator status or indicators lights and these LED indicator lights can hook a kettle up to the internet, so we can control our kettle wherever we are and the house can control the appliances to make the home environment much more energy efficient – smart homes, smart environment.

So we have a fully networked world.

[JL]

We talk about technology readiness level and it is perhaps an assumption that industry won’t be getting engaged unless the technology is mature enough to smell and to touch and really that’s not true, certainly for large industry. We are exploring new capabilities and technologies from as far upstream as we possibly can.

[HH]

This process of linking and having the opportunity to talk to people who are involved in the business on a day to day basis, getting their feedback in terms of what can really solve a problem in the real world, is a big asset for us in academia because that influences the way we reshape our ideas to not only have academic impact, but also turn that idea into something you can touch.

[JL]

A scheme like RISE can only help remind us of the importance of staying engaged with UK universities. It exposes us to particular individuals, but it also reminds us that there are plenty more world-class inspirational leaders out there for us to seek out and to start to work with.