Enabling Real-Time Indoor Tracking of IoT Devices through Visible Light Retroreflection

Sihua Shao, Abdallah Khreishah, Issa Khalil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Visible light communication (VLC)-based indoor localization approaches enjoy many advantages, such as utilizing ubiquitous lighting infrastructure, high location accuracy, and no interruption to RF-based devices. However, existing VLC-based localization methods lack a real-time backward channel from the device to landmarks and necessitate computation at the device, which make them unsuitable for real-time tracking of small IoT devices. In this paper, we propose and prototype RETRO, that establishes an almost zero-delay backward channel by retroreflection. RETRO localizes passive IoT devices without requiring computation and heavy sensing (e.g., camera) at the devices. Multiple photodiodes (i.e., landmarks) are mounted on any single unmodified light source to sense the retroreflected optical signal (i.e., location signature). We derive a closed-form expression, which is validated by experiments and ray tracing simulations, for the reflected optical power relative to the location and the orientation of the retroreflector. The expression is applied to a received signal strength indicator and trilateration based localization algorithm. Extensive experiments demonstrate centimeter-level location accuracy and single-digit angular error. For practicality concern, to mitigate the thickness problem of a single retroreflector, the capabilities of different retroreflector arrays are studied. The range of the localization system is theoretically evaluated for different light emission patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8654691
Pages (from-to)836-851
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Indoor localization
  • IoT localization
  • retroreflector
  • visible light localization


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