First there was the "Semaphore version of Wuthering Heights", then "Julius Caesar on an Aldis Lamp" and now its "E-mail down the office lights". Martyn Warwick reports.
St Cloud, Minnesota, is a town with a population of 66,000. It is situated just off Interstate 94 north-west of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St Paul on the long haul to Fargo - and if you've seen the Coen Brother's film of the same name you'll have some idea of what that's like in winter. To say it is dark and cold is something of an understatement. You need thermal undies, arctic outerwear, a big central heating system and lots of lights to get through to Spring.
And the lights in the business centre of St. Cloud are now being put to extra and novel usage as a carrier medium for Internet access! So-called 'neon' tube lighting, the cheapest and most effective way of illuminating office environments tare actually gas discharge lamps that use electricity to excite a vapour contained in a sealed tube. This results in fluorecence and the light that emitted is both brighter and more efficient than is available from an ordinary incandescent bulb while using less electricity.
Fluorescent lamps also flicker - usually at twice the frequency of the electric supply being used but sometimes at the mains frequency itself (50 or 60 Hz).
Most people don't notice the flicker but some are sensitive to the stroboscopic effect and suffer headaches and eye strain as a direct result. And I'm sure all of us will at one time or another, have been irritated by a very noticeable flicker (accompanied by a very annoying elecrical hum) that indicates a tube light is at the end of its useful life.
However, the flicker inherent to the technology is now being pressed into service as a carrier via which data is transmitted to specially adapted and equipped modems and scomputers sited on desks beneath the latest in LED lighting that has been designed to oscillate at rates far faster than the human eye can appreciate.
The new equipment, which went live last week in six municipal buildings in St. Cloud, uses equipment from a local start-up company LVX System. The company claims that the first iteration of the technology can transmit data at "about" 3 Mbit/s. The CEO of LVX, John Pederson, says that in a year or so a second-generation system will "permit speeds on par with commercial Wi-Fi networks."
The company adds that, in due course, the technology will help reduce congestion on wireless networks by "opening up new expressways for short-range communications."
Photo: William Wesen, Pub. domain, Wiki Commons
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