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Li-Fi Network for Tactical Shelters



OBJECTIVE: Develop robust multi-channel co-functioning Classified and Non-Classified voice/data/video network using visible or infrared light transmission for use in tactical shelters to decrease installation time, while increasing data security and transmission capacity. 

DESCRIPTION: Current tactical shelters utilize a digital data networking system which requires that each workstation of the shelter be wired individually in order to be connected to the network. This method is very time consuming and runs counter to the Army Chief of Staff directive to reduce the set-up and strike timeframe to the absolute minimum for network connectivity of all workstations. The networking timeframe issue is currently being addressed via common wiring harnesses and secure Wi-Fi networking systems. The former approach will still take more time than desired to install/strike, while the latter may come up against future bandwidth limitations and security issues despite the best countermeasures since the WiFi signal can travel through the structure gaps to the surrounding environment. In 2011, a concept was developed whereby digital information could be transferred to workstation receivers and linked to a network though the modulation of light transmitted by a slightly modified LED lighting system. Think of this as a fiber optics system without the fiber cable. A portion of the LED light wavelength produced by the bulb is modulated at frequencies beyond human perception and the workstation receiver picks up the signal and transfers it to the user’s computer system. A system of this type is projected to deliver far higher data volume than current Wi-Fi and be totally secure since the light signal cannot pass through structure boundaries such as tent fabric or composite walls. The characteristic of the technology only being useful in confined spaces makes it ideal for our proposed application. It has the added capability of reducing power consumption and since it’s installed with the shelter lighting system will save precious set-up and strike times. Other downstream candidates for this technology would be any self-contained computerized multiuser workstation network which would have a signal uplink to the outside world, such as remote outposts, ships and ultimately new construction office/manufacturing networks. The desired outcome of this project is the construction of a Local Area Network capable of handling 50 workstations in a combined area of 2,500 ft2 while exceeding IEEE 802.11ac and 802.11n theoretical maximum data transfer rates. System must sustain an operationally concurrent minimum throughput of 40% maximum rated network transfer speed. Classified and Un-Classified data transmission within a user workstation lateral span of 3 feet or less is required for fielding purposes. The system objective is to function on the framework of current 120 VAC 60 Hz power supply and shelter LED lighting harnesses using adapted LED circuitry. 

PHASE I: Awardee shall design a viable and robust LED driven multi-channel, multi-user voice/data/video network configuration to integrate with US military network with the Phase 1 objective of demonstrating the technology. The desired outcomes of this phase are: 1.) At the conclusion of the six (6) month period, the awardee shall deliver a system design capable of supporting a minimum of 18 workstations with 12 workstations using Classified channels and 6 workstations using an Un-Classified common channel. The system is to have a multi-channel capability while providing two distinct communication systems (Classified and Un-Classified requirements) within the same physical structure, without any cross-over data bleed or interference. The system shall exhibit a sustained data throughput of 1Gbps. 2.) At the end of the Option period, the Awardee shall deliver a bench scale functional demonstration of the design for proof of concept. Additionally, the awardee shall deliver the following: • Within first two reports, present market research of all existing and future market opportunities outside of DoD applications. • Projected cost per unit of system capable of meeting Phase II performance objectives. • Interfacing plan, e.g. ensuring interoperability with existing military functions… • Network schematics • A list of maintenance items, frequency of replacing such items, and specific training required. • A cost analysis of the systems life cycle, including the cost of maintenance items and consumables, as well as the initial capital cost of procuring the system – over 5 years. This Phase I SBIR is not projected to perform work of a DoD Classified nature. All work performed during Phase I is for technology proof of concept and performance evaluations. 

PHASE II: Phase II shall result in a delivery of physical hardware capable of demonstrating the concept in a field environment. In this project, the delivered product shall be installed for testing in a Base Camp Integration Lab modeled on current US Army standard for a Combat Outpost. The awardee shall refine the Phase I concept to withstand military environmental conditions and expeditionary power generation constraints where power supply is provided by Tactical Quiet Generators. The awardee shall also configure the technology to be easily harnessed into existing military grade LED lighting fixtures (Techshot Batlite NSN 6210-01-644-1007) such that the technology becomes integrated into the common lighting harness system. The awardee shall optimize signal stability in multi-user workstation download and upload operational conditions. Produce a functional system prototype for testing to include integration with current military qualified digital information modem transmission devices. The objective of the Phase II effort is to provide a Li-Fi based Local Area Network Capability to a 50 workstation shelter complex with a combined area of 2,500 ft2, with an objective of 40 Gbps and a threshold of 25 Gbps sustainable data transfer rates. System shall be operational in interior shelters temperatures than can range from 400F – 1200F. System shall have the ability to sustain concurrent Classified and Un-Classified voice, data and video transfer systems without crossover and at workstation lateral spacing of 3 ft. System shall also be operational during night light discipline operations. System is required to be stable enough to withstand human traffic daylight penetration into the test shelter which shall be configured with a vestibule and tent flap. Each complete Li-Fi unit shall have a total system weight of less than 120 lbs, including packaging, in a man-transportable configuration. One prototype system shall be delivered at the end of Year One (12 months) with a subsequent one (1) month testing period. After this period, design changes shall be communicated to the contractor for development a 2nd generation prototype for a one (1) month evaluation at the end of month 23. System shall be fully functional to allow for performance validation and testing. Testing is projected to be performed at CERDEC facility in Aberdeen, MD. • Technical Data Package to include source code and hardware architecture for Limited Government Use. • Interfacing plan, e.g. ensuring interoperability with existing military functions. • Conceptual drawings. • A list of maintenance items, frequency of replacing such items, and specific training required. • A cost analysis of the systems life cycle, including the cost of maintenance items and consumables, as well as the initial capital cost of procuring the system – over 5 years. During Phase II SBIR, it is possible that there will be some degree of exposure to existing Classified data communications network infrastructure. As such, candidates must be prepared to conform to and execute the standards enumerated by the DoD Defense Security Service. (See for more information.) 

PHASE III: The focus of Phase I and Phase II of this program is to develop the technology to replace existing military hardwired and WiFi data networking systems and to provide multi-user network information capability in two distinct and secure data flows in a military expeditionary environment which can then integrate with standard military data transmission devices. This system shall be able to provide data communications and interior lighting system without the need for additional wiring systems, thus reducing transport weight, cube, system set-up and strike times while reducing energy consumption of the lighting and information transfer systems. Commercialization of this technology is projected to be of use in new build office, factory, shipboard, airline and other dimensionally bounded environments. Other applications are anticipated to be found in disaster relief communications networks as well as underground communication networks where traditional wireless networks do not function. 


1: Science Alert - "Li-Fi Has Just Been Tested in The Real World, And It’s 100 Times Faster Than Wi-Fi" 24 Nov 2015

2:  Futurism – "Researchers Just Unveiled a New Li-Fi System That’s 100 Times Faster Than Wi-Fi" 21 Mar 2017

3:  "What is Li-Fi?"

4:  "Voice and Data Communication Using Li-Fi" Kikshop and Sowyma, International Journal of Advanced Computational Engineering and Networking, Oct 2016,

5:  "Evolution of Gi-Fi and Li-Fi in Wireless Networks" Nikhal, Sowbhagya and Krishna, International Journal of Computer Sciences and Engineering, May 2016,


Frank Murphy 

(508) 233-4444 

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