Smartphone optical data communication technology from Panasonic

Panasonic has developed technology for using an LED as the light source so that smartphones can read optical ID signals containing various kinds of information.

"On the LED side, technology for communicating information through LEDs flashing at high speed has been utilized before. However, to make such information readable with an ordinary smartphone, the system used fluctuations in brightness that could be seen by the human eye. But the technology we’ve developed now can vary the LED’s brightness at such high frequency, the flashing, or the fluctuation, isn’t visible to the human eye. The feature of this technology is on the smartphone side; it makes the signal readable by an ordinary smartphone."

This new technology is hundreds of times faster than previous systems; it can send and receive optical ID signals at several kilobits per second. It could be used to supplement explanations of goods in stores, and as a solution for obtaining information from signs that use LEDs as the light source. As other applications, this technology could capture more detailed information, or receive multilingual explanations, from digital signage.

"The device that sends the signals with this technology can be in, for example, a store or public place. Meanwhile, the person receiving the information can be a consumer or passerby. Unless that person can use their regular smartphone, such a system is meaningless; that was the basic idea behind our development of this technology. Going forward, we think this should involve not only Panasonic, but also alliances with manufacturers that can put the technology into many forms, as well as IT system integrators, and businesses that can provide services using the technology."

Panasonic intends to release products that transmit optical ID signals by March 2016, and plans to develop this business full-scale from fiscal 2016.

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