Visible Light Communication (VLC)

Indoor positioning via VLC (Visual Light Communication, also Visible Light Communication): VLC was developed to market readiness by Philips Lighting. The system is used in various supermarkets in France and Germany. Philips calls the positioning via light signals Indoor Positioning System (IPS). The IPS uses LED lights for local navigation and information transmission.


  • very precise positioning


  • Mobile phone camera requires constant “line of sight” to the light source
  • The lighting system does not record any personal data

Their light signals transmit an individual coding for each luminaire, which is perceptible to the smartphone camera but not to the human eye. Similar to GPS navigation, the app can determine the current position of the smartphone to an accuracy of 30 centimetres from the signals received from the lights and compare it with the target coordinates.

No WLAN or mobile connection is required. In order for the technology to be used for navigation, however, there must be a constant “line of sight” between the mobile phone camera and the light source. The data stream is also a one-way street for pure VLC. This means that no data on customer movements can be obtained.

Philips has therefore switched to combining VLC with Bluetooth technology. In addition to other location-based services, this combination makes it possible to position and navigate in spite of an interrupted line of sight – for example when the mobile phone is in your pocket. Due to the high positioning accuracy, VLC/IPS can be used for the first time to implement shelf- and product-specific navigation, as is particularly necessary in food retailing.

Visual Light Communication or the Philips IPS should not be confused with the “single-tone” system from competitor Osram. Osram only uses conventional beacons in its LED lamps. The advantages over unused beacons lie in the integrated power supply and in the fact that a beacon infrastructure is built up “on the side” with a renewal of the lighting.Both systems have the advantage that the switch from conventional lighting to LEDs has a considerable saving effect on energy costs. This should allow the beacon or VLC infrastructure to refinance itself more quickly.