Indoor Positioning Using Nothing But LED Lighting


This is cool.

The lighting division of the tech multinational Philips is testing new technology that enables highly accurate, anonymous indoor location and navigation using nothing but banks of overhead LED lighting to inform a smartphone app.

The lighting does the traditional job – illuminating a store – but each LED node has something called visible light communication that sends an imperceptible light beam with a unique code. A shopper opens the store’s smartphone app and the code informs the app, using a positioning map, to indicate where they are and where they can find items.

The VLC tech is being tested in a giant Carrefour hypermarket in Lille, France, with 2.5 kms of connected LED lighting installed across the 7,800 square metre shop floor.

The positioning tech is accurate to less than a metre, and negates the need for other positioning tech like beacons. At the same time, going LED with lighting can cut energy costs in a store in half.

It doesn’t say whether the application has the ability to do some of the proximity marketing made possible by beacons, but my guess is that if it does not already, it could – as that work is on the server side. Beacons are just transmitters, much like these lighting nodes.

In a new build or a complete flush of the lighting solution in a store, this visible light communication tech might make a lot of sense. But a lot of store are probably already on some form of LED lighting, and it would be way cheaper to slap $9 beacons up here, there and everywhere. And I’m guessing stores want one solution across their estates, not two.

Still, pretty cool.

Dave Haynes

Dave Haynes

Editor/Founder at Sixteen:Nine
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for more than a decade. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He's based near Toronto.
Dave Haynes


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