Artistic Licence CEO and Art-Net inventor, Wayne Howell, has combined forces with
lighting controls expert, Dr. Geoff Archenhold of Integrated System Technologies
(IST) Ltd. to ensure Art-Net is ready for the advent of a new and potentially
disruptive communications technology – Visible Light Communication, or VLC.

Coming soon to an LED near you, VLC provides a means of transmitting information
by modulating the light at a frequency too high to be perceptible to the human eye.
A simple conceptual analogy would be using a torch to flash a message in Morse
code. Unlike a torch, however, VLC is exciting because of the high data rates that
can be achieved and the fact that LED is a huge growth market. Other benefits
relate to security and/or safety in environments where radio frequency
transmissions are undesirable, such as hospitals.

Aiming for the highest possible data transmission speeds, companies such as
pureLiFi are exploiting VLC as an alternative to Wi-Fi – a clever move that side-
steps the problem of dwindling radio spectrum bandwidth in a world ever-more
dependent on cloud data storage.

At lower speeds, VLC has the huge advantage of being compatible with existing
technology infrastructure. For example, the LED display lighting in a museum could
transmit text information or video URLs about the exhibits to visitors’ smart
devices. Customers in a large retail store could opt to share their phones’ GPS
location with VLC enabled lighting to better navigate the aisles or find special offers.

Another concept is that of a VLC beacon, which transmits a repeated message. For
example, this could be the identity of a zone in a building, such as a hotel foyer. An
installer could then use a smartphone control app to auto-configure the lighting
levels throughout the building.

Given the huge opportunities afforded by VLC, there was a pressing need to
incorporate it into the lighting protocols in common use today. One of the most
ubiquitous is Art-Net, the ethernet based protocol that enables transmission of
DMX512 data.

Accordingly, Howell and Archenhold have worked together to devise a standard
method of controlling VLC via Art-Net and DMX512 (the newer sACN standard is also
supported). Within the Art-Net specification, there is now a packet identified as
ArtVlc, which can be used for both Art-Net and DMX512.

For developers, the supporting network analysis programme, DMX-Workshop
(available as a free download from the Artistic Licence website) includes an option
for viewing and dissecting this packet. There is also a transmitter function that
includes the ability to adjust the parameters of the packet and test receivers.