During the Shanghai Workshop I had the chance to renew a nearly-lost contact with a former Audi Beijing colleague who left the company to run his own startup—yet another example of how fruitful DVN events are! He’s made a speciality of OWC (Optical Wireless Communication), also called LiFi. In my opinion OWC was never interesting for vehicle lighting because of the high modulation frequencies and the need to fight the sun during daytime. But after some discussion, I’ve changed my mind.
I’ve learnt OWC is already integrated in the 6G wireless communication standard definition in China because of latency, bandwidth and especially environmental reasons. In big Chinese cities, the load of electromagnetic radiation is extremely high, mainly caused by 5G communication. There’s extreme density of antennas, such as at road crossings and inside stadiums. The electromagnetic load is very high inside a fully occupied bus with everyone using at least one (increasingly two) mobile phones, and that seems like it can’t be healthy. China is the forerunner in wireless communication, so sooner or later this problem will rise up in every big city worldwide. Nobody’s going to accept a cutdown in bandwidth; in fact we’re sure to keep demanding more of it. OWC has real possibilities as a way to maintain and increase the available bandwidth without negative health influences.
Today’s OWC use cases are not yet defined by clamour for “healthy” bandwidth; they are mostly military applications like stealth communication in aircraft, ships, or even while diving: high price, low volume, ultra-secret. None of that is what we need and want in the automotive business. But now the door seems to be opening for short-range communication with light for public applications. As a lighting community, we must at least be aware of this and discuss the opportunities and risks it presents for our business. Imagine there comes a potentially huge future business into our playground and we are sleeping! This must not happen. Let’s consider OWC as a potential additional opportunity in vehicle lighting.
I remind you the DVN US workshop in the Detroit area 21-22 September on the theme “How to Save lives in Night-time Traffic”. Save the date, it will be the greatest workshop on automotive safety concerning Lighting !