Lasers are awesome and internet is slow.
What it does
LaserComm is a demonstration of free-space optical communication which has been shown by NASA to be able to transmit information at a much faster rate than previous methods using microwaves(Wi-Fi and bluetooth).
LaserComm offers three main benefits:
1) LaserComm is more secure than traditional microwave or radio-wave transmissions. Anyone with an antenna can pick up on those singles. With LaserComm however, a direct line of sight with the laser must be established to intercept signals. If an intruder intercepts the line of communication, it can be detected immediately and the system can respond accordingly. Second, people wishing to intercept data must be synced perfectly with our transmitter, otherwise they would read in bits out of order and information read would be virtually useless. If one were to encrypt their data before sending it over LaserComm, any information sent over it would be extremely hard to break.
2) LaserComm offers a very cheap form of communication. Sometimes laying down fiber optic cables is prohibitively expensive and in some cases it may even be impossible to lay down such wires in remote and poorer regions of the world. Sometimes natural disasters may wipe out a regions infrastructure and communication network. LaserComm would make restoration of critical communication very cheap and very easy. Furthermore, LaserComm is cheaper to repair and maintain than fiber optic cables because it does not require the digging up of such cables.
3) LaserComm offers very fast data transfer. The speed of data transmission for LaserComm is limited by the clock rate of the hardware it is run on and not the frequency of waves that limits wave based data transmission. Research done by NASA has claimed that speeds of 20x faster than any previous speed record were reached using free-space optical communication and Facebook has put out claims that free-space optical communication would allow for data transmission speeds measured in gigabytes per second.
How we built it
LaserComm was built using two arduinos. One for broadcasting and one for receiving information. Text is read into the broadcasting arduino where each char is converted into its 8-bit binary representation. The laser then modulates this information to the receiving photo-resistor. A 0 bit is represented by the laser being turned off while a 1 bit is represented by the laser being turned on. The receiving arduino then reads in the string of 1s and 0s and then converts the information back into a string.
What's next for LaserComm
While at this hackathon we only transmitted text files, in the future we can grow the project to encode, transmit, and decode audio, image, and video files. LaserComm can also be optimized with more lasers and photo-resistors to allow for multiple streams of data being transmitted. This would allow for a file to be transferred even faster. LaserComm would also need to be upgraded for use in harsher environments. From a software perspective, LaserComm would be upgraded to include more opp-codes and to handle lost bits to allow for more versatile use.