How Light-Based 'Li-Fi' Could Help Free Medical Patients from Wires

In hospitals, patients covered in wires could become a thing of the past.

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Aug 26 2015, 7:24pm

Image: Robert Lawton

Patients could soon be less tied down in hospitals, as researchers work to develop technology that transmits vital signs by light instead of wires.

The technology, called Li-Fi, has been in development for a few years and works by using LEDs to transmit information. Now, a team of researchers at Pukyong National University in South Korea have found a way to implement it in the health sphere, using Li-Fi for electroencephalograph (EEG) readings.

They said the EEG signals were relatively weak for the Li-Fi technology, but they were able to amplify them and distort them with color filters to be compatible with the red, green, and blue LEDs used to transmit the data. The successful transmission means brain activity could soon be read without the use of wires.

"It's a very much friendlier means of transmitting biomedical signals in a hospital," Yeon Ho Chung, an engineer at Pukyong National University in Busan, told IEEE Spectrum.

In addition to the EEG signals, the researchers demonstrated Li-Fi transmission for electrocardiogram readings. They also say it could potentially be used for electrooculography, a technique used to record eye movement, potentially opening the door for quadriplegic users to implement the technology to control computers.