Tower Power

Utica Tower at Night


This article chronicles how one man’s efforts to promote his home town of Utica, New York, may lead to new discoveries in Li-Fi technology.

Mr. Giotto is a successful inventor and owner of a number of technology companies headquartered in Oriskany, New York.

In 1903 Nikola Tesla built a giant tower to demonstrate the feasibility of transmitting electricity without wires. In 2013 a modern-day visionary, Frank Giotto, created a 150 foot tower that serves as a test bed for new communications technology.

That technology is Li-Fi, which promises to increase data transmission rates and reduce congestion on radio frequency bands. According to Mr. Giotto, Li-Fi (Light Fidelity) may replace Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelty) in many applications. The technology uses light emitted by LEDs to transmit data at speeds approaching that of light, faster than any other form of broadband communication (see companion article on page 10). Mr. Giotto said that the Utica Landmark Tower is lit by hundreds of LEDs, which will be useful for testing Li-Fi in outdoor applications.

The Evolution of an Idea

According to Mr. Giotto, “When I first conceived of building a lighted tower, I knew nothing about Li-Fi. I had a simple objective in mind. I wanted to give the City of Utica a highly visible sign to let travelers know the name of our city when they arrived or were passing by. When I was a boy, I remember how we once had ‘Utica’ prominently displayed on a building adjacent to the main highway, but that structure was torn down years ago.”

The new “signpost” that Mr. Giotto envisioned was a 150’ tall steel tower with the word “Utica” emblazoned in big red letters at the top of the structure. The site that he selected for the tower was chosen for its visibility from several major highways that traverse the Greater Utica area.

“To help build the tower I formed the Utica Landmark Corporation, a group of like-minded community leaders who contributed ideas and helped get the necessary building permits.

“The quality of life in our area is terrific, and we want people to know about it as we encourage economic growth. In my opinion there is no better place to live, learn, work and play. We have abundant land, water, clean air and top colleges, not to mention our close proximity to the pristine Adirondack Mountains.

Lighting the Way

“To maximize visibility, we chose to illuminate the structure from top to bottom with hundreds of LEDs,” said Mr. Giotto. “Within months of the installation, I read how LEDs are the key to an emerging communications technology known as Li-Fi. I also learned that Li-Fi works great for indoor applications but transmitting outdoors was a problem. Rain or fog particles can block light signals being transmitted by an LED.

“I thought about that problem, and wondered if an array of hundreds of LEDs transmitting the same signals in unison might help ensure that signals got through to the receiver. I thought about the tower we had just built, which is covered in LEDs, and realized that it might make the perfect test bed. In theory Li-Fi will work with the conventional LEDs installed on the tower, so all I needed for testing were devices to modulate and demodulate the signals.”

Play Misty for Me

“In the Northeastern United States we get more than our fair share of rain, fog, sleet and snow. Actually, those conditions are perfect for testing wireless communications, since it provides a worse-case scenario. Our ‘transmission array’ measures over 4,000 square feet on each side of the tower. That’s a huge surface area with which to test the viability of using Li-Fi outdoors.

“We are creating the modulators now and soon we will have receivers set up in test homes in North Utica to see if our approach is successful. We plan to report our findings in various industry publications, including WaveLengths Magazine. Stay tuned.”

Tower Website will Soar Above the Rest

“We are in the process of creating a website that reflects the true spirit, creativity and personality of our community,” said Mr. Giotto. “The tower website will be the launch pad for local news, podcasts, and even virtual helicopter tours of our area. This will be unique - we are pulling out all the stops.

“To accomplish our objective, we met with an affiliate company, Creative Media Concepts (CMC), which shares our vision for the tower. CMC submitted a comprehensive proposal about ways to actively engage visitors who come to the tower website. Recommendations under consideration include:

WaveLengths Radio - Hosted by Charlie Carino, Executive Editor of WaveLengths Magazine, emerging technologies are explored by our tech-savvy host. This high-energy show has a positive “new age” feel, suggesting that science and technology can provide insights into why we’re here.

Tower Tours - Seven “virtual reality” helicopter tours of attractions in Greater Utica are now under development. The first “proof of concept” tour has been completed and is truly unique.

Grin City - A local artist provides humorous insights about life in Greater Utica. Includes original cartoons, animations and interactive puzzles, all family friendly.

Adirondack Tales - Gather around the campfire! This podcast series includes Tales of The Brightside, which features ghost stories and first-person accounts about eerie happenings in and around this famed Adirondack hotel.

Indi City - Utica has an active arts community with an exceptional number of talented musicians. Indi City podcasts showcase the talents of local independent artists through interviews and original music.

True Colors Talk Show - Uticans have big hearts when it comes to supporting charitable events. In addition “talking up” worthy causes, we will change the color of the tower lights to support charitable efforts, e.g. pink during Breast Cancer Awareness Week.

Tower Light Shows - Enjoy holiday music and see the tower come alive in these online, music-synchronized light shows. You choose the music and animated light pattern.