Harald Haas

Communications technology innovator
Harald Haas is the pioneer behind a new type of light bulb that can communicate as well as illuminate – access the Internet using light instead of radio waves.

Why you should listen

Imagine using your car headlights to transmit data ... or surfing the web safely on a plane, tethered only by a line of sight. Harald Haas is working on it. A professor of engineering at Edinburgh University, Haas has long been studying ways to communicate electronic data signals, designing modulation techniques that pack more data onto existing networks. But his latest work leaps beyond wires and radio waves to transmit data via an LED bulb that glows and darkens faster than the human eye can see.

The system, which he's calling D-Light, uses a mathematical trick called OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing), which allows it to vary the intensity of the LED's output at a very fast rate, invisible to the human eye (for the eye, the bulb would simply be on and providing light). The signal can be picked up by simple receivers. As of now, Haas is reporting data rates of up to 10 MBit/s per second
(faster than a typical broadband connection), and 100 MBit/s by the end of this year and possibly up to 1 GB in the future.

He says: "It should be so cheap that it’s everywhere. Using the visible light spectrum, which comes for free, you can piggy-back existing wireless services on the back of lighting equipment."

What others say

“As well as revolutionising internet reception, it would put an end to the potentially harmful electromagnetic pollution emitted by wireless internet routers and has raised the prospect of ubiquitous wireless access, transmitted through streetlights.” — Herald Scotland

Harald Haas’ TED talks

Quotes from Harald Haas

Everywhere in a day there is light. Look around. Everywhere. Look at your smart phone. It has a flashlight, an LED flashlight. These are potential sources for high-speed data transmission.
Harald Haas
TEDGlobal 2011 • 1.5M views Aug 2011
Ingenious, Fascinating