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Next-generation LEDs -- bright in more ways than one

New LEDs -- light-emitting diodes -- can do more than save energy and slash electric bills.
They can help drivers find an open parking space, deliver personalized coupons to shoppers' cellphones, stream movies and call 911 for an elderly person who has fallen in the shower. New lighting technology can include embedded control systems capable of gathering and analyzing data and responding to that information to improve everyday life "just like the Google car has sensors that can drive -- and some would argue drive better than people," said Bob Karlicek, who directs the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. At the core of that LED technology is a solid-state semiconductor, which resembles a smartphone's minicomputer.

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