In Light and In Darkness, In Motion and In Stillness: A Reliable and Adaptive Receiver for the Internet of Lights
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LEDs in our buildings, vehicles and consumer products are rapidly gaining visible light communication capabilities. LED links however are notorious for being unreliable: shadowing, blockage, mobility, external light, all of these issues can disrupt the connectivity easily. Therefore, unless a reliable and cost-efficient data link layer is designed, VLC will be confined to niche applications. In this paper, we reveal a reason for unreliable VLC: a single type of photodetector at the receiver can not establish a reliable link. We show that photodetectors with complementary properties, in terms of optical spectral response and field-of-view, are necessary to handle the wide dynamic range of optical noise (such as the sun and other unwanted light sources) and mobility of users. Motivated by our experimental observations, we design REAL-VLC (a reliable and adaptive receiver for VLC) for low-end communication systems, an inexpensive receiver that senses light with complementary photodetectors and configures itself (Physical and Data Link Layers) dynamically to maintain the communication link. We implement the hardware and the software of REAL-VLC in low-end platforms, and experimentally validate it in representative test scenarios and a proof-of-concept application that consists of mobile nodes maintaining a VLC link under various lighting and path conditions.