Visible Light Communications: The Future of Retail Indoor Location? Image

Visible Light Communications: The Future of Retail Indoor Location?


While the indoor location market is relatively nascent, many of the underlying technologies that are driving the market are well understood. Today, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi form the cornerstone of most implementations, with sensor fusion expected to play a major part as location intelligence shifts from infrastructure to the handset. However, it must be pointed out that today, most implementations are targeting accuracy of five to 10 meters and in reality are only capable of 10 to 30 meters when cost constraints are in place. Furthermore, location updates are another issue, with many systems working in the range of updates every 10 to 30 seconds. In the retail space, where brands want to deliver offers and notifications as customers are passing individual products, the higher the accuracy and the faster the update the more that can be done. As a result, a number of leading companies in this space are looking beyond what is available today, to what can be achieved in four to five years’ time that will enable higher accuracy and update rates, while also enabling a new generation of features and functionality.

There are a number of technologies emerging that could be the answer to at least some of these pain points, including audio/ultrasound, magnetic-fields, LTE/LTE Direct and small cells. However, LED-based technology is tantalizingly close to solving both the indoor location problem and also high speed data communications, using an infrastructure that has already been deployed primarily for lighting purposes. Despite a number of fundamental barriers, companies can see the benefits of ubiquitous indoor centimeter level accuracies with millisecond updates. This report outlines the current state-of-the-art for LED and VLC indoor location technologies, as well as considering innovation around Li-Fi. It looks at the companies active in this space and those most likely to come to market. It also forecasts the adoption of LED/VLC indoor location usage over the next five years.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

    • 1.1. Fundamental Issues with Current Indoor Location Technologies
    • 2.1. Major Advantages of LEDs as a Lighting Source
    • 2.2. What Is Visible Light Communications (VLC)?
    • 2.3. Major Advantages of VLC as a Location Technology
    • 2.4. Disadvantages of VLC
    • 2.5. Communication Variations
    • 2.6. Standardization
    • 2.7. Optical Wireless Communications (OWC)
    • 2.8. What Is Li-Fi and How Does It Differ from VLC?
    • 2.9. VLC Indoor Location Business Models
    • 2.10. What Does VLC Bring to Indoor Location?
    • 2.11. What Other Technologies Are Competitive?
      • 2.11.1. Sensor Fusion
      • 2.11.2. Audio/Ultrasound
      • 2.11.3. UWB
      • 2.11.4. LTE-Direct
      • 2.11.5. Future Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Evolutions
    • 2.12. Conclusion on VLC as an Indoor Location Technology
    • 3.1. Commercial LED Market Forecasts
    • 3.2. Adoption of VLC for Indoor Location in LEDs
    • 3.3. Competitive Environment
      • 3.3.1. Casio
      • 3.3.2. Intel
      • 3.3.3. Fraunhofer Institute
      • 3.3.4. Li-Fi Consortium
      • 3.3.5. OLEDCOMM
      • 3.3.6. PureVLC
      • 3.3.7. OMEGA
      • 3.3.8. Sensity
      • 3.3.9. CommScope
      • 3.3.10. Qualcomm
      • 3.3.11. ByteLight
      • 3.3.12. Motorola


  1. Commercial LED Lightbulb Shipments, World Market, Forecast: 2013 to 2018
  2. Smart LED Lightbulb Adoption, World Market, Forecast: 2013 to 2018
  3. VLC Indoor Location Smartphone Adoption, World Market, Forecast: 2013 to 2018


  1. Light Bulb Comparison
  2. Phone Usage Infographic
  3. OMEGA Proposed LED Home Network Implementation