Exploiting Digital Micro-Mirror Devices for Ambient Light Communication


Talia Xu, Miguel Chávez Tapia, and Marco Zúñiga, Technical University Delft


There is a growing interest in exploiting ambient light for wireless communication. This new research area has two key advantages: it utilizes a free portion of the spectrum and does not require modifications of the lighting infrastructure. Most existing designs, however, rely on a single type of optical surface at the transmitter: liquid crystal displays (LCDs). LCDs have two inherent limitations, they cut the optical power in half, which affects the range; and they have slow time responses, which affects the data rate. We take a step back to provide a new perspective for ambient light communication with two novel contributions. First, we propose an optical model to understand the fundamental limits and opportunities of ambient light communication. Second, based on the insights of our model, we build a novel platform, dubbedPhotoLink, that exploits a different type of optical surface: digital micro-mirror devices (DMDs). Considering the same scenario in terms of surface area and ambient light conditions, we benchmark the performance of PhotoLink using two types of receivers, one optimized for LCDs and the other for DMDs. In both cases, PhotoLink outperforms the data rate of equivalent LCD-transmitters by factors of 30 and 80: 30kbps & 80 kbps vs. 1 kbps, while consuming less than 50 mW. Even when compared to a more sophisticated multi-cell LCD platform, which has a surface area that is 500 times bigger than ours, PhotoLink’s data rate is 10-fold: 80 kbps vs. 8 kbps. To the best of our knowledge this is the first work providing an optical model for ambient light communication and breaking the 10 kbps barrier for these types of links.

NSDI '22 Open Access Sponsored by
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

Open Access Media

USENIX is committed to Open Access to the research presented at our events. Papers and proceedings are freely available to everyone once the event begins. Any video, audio, and/or slides that are posted after the event are also free and open to everyone. Support USENIX and our commitment to Open Access.

@inproceedings {278372,
author = {Talia Xu and Miguel Ch{\'a}vez Tapia and Marco Z{\'u}{\~n}iga},
title = {Exploiting Digital {Micro-Mirror} Devices for Ambient Light Communication},
booktitle = {19th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI 22)},
year = {2022},
isbn = {978-1-939133-27-4},
address = {Renton, WA},
pages = {387--400},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/nsdi22/presentation/xu-talia},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = apr,

Presentation Video