In recent years, a growing interest has been witnessed in the research and development of optical wireless communication (OWC) systems. This is mainly driven by tremendous advancements in optical sources from high power bulky solid state lasers to low power compact light emitting diodes (LEDs) in different optical spectra (such as infrared, visible, ultraviolet), and detectors from vacuum tube based to semiconductor avalanche photodetectors. Lighting LEDs have been considered as next generation green lighting devices to replace incandescent and fluorescent lamps by the Department of Energy in the US. Besides the compelling advantages of the latest generation of LEDs for energy efficient lighting, these devices also offer tremendous opportunities for wireless communications. This comes at a time where the shortage of RF spectrum is a key issue, and where additional license free wireless transmission resources could provide significant spectrum relief – in particular when there already is an infrastructure in place. Consequently, the IEEE 802.15 TG7 defined a visible light communication standard and is in the process of formalizing other extensions for different use cases. VLC networks have been expanded to deliver localization and positioning information, which can be used for guidance, or to deliver context-sensitive information. In this context, optical wireless communication systems have also been developed for vehicular networks to convey collision avoidance information as well as traffic data to moving automobiles. Free-space optics (FSO) in infrared and ultraviolet bands are also active areas of research. In particular, infrared FSO links are useful candidates for broadband backhaul in dense 5G deployments. UV FSO links enjoy the benefit of covert and license-free operation while requiring little orientation.
Currently, the area of OWC is included in different but isolated societies’ programs, like SPIE, OSA, IEEE Communications, Signal Processing, Photonics, etc. Researchers in this field often find it difficult to identify a flagship conference or workshop on optical wireless communications. The goals of this workshop are (a) to build upon the very successful tradition of GLOBECOM workshops held in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 and to eventually establish OWC as a successful track within the main conference, and (b) to foster a community and relevant focused activities, and present state-of-the-art research and development results from academia and industry at an international level. The workshop not only covers traditional infrared communications (indoor and outdoor), but also the emerging visible light and ultraviolet communication technologies. At this year’s workshop we plan to have invited papers; in particular, we would like to reach a broader community of core communication theory, information theory, signal processing, and networking researchers. There are significant areas of overlapping interest that we hope to exploit to ensure that the OWC community does not become isolated in COMSOC.