Working in the electronics sector, it is easy to become blasé about new technologies. Such is the rapid pace of change in the industry that we can miss or fail to fully appreciate those ‘wow’ moments. ‘Li-Fi’ (Light Fidelity) was one of those moments for the Soumac team.
For those of you that haven’t come across the term or technology, think wi-fi but with light. First showcased by University of Edinburgh Professor, Harald Haas, at TEDGlobal 2011, the technology works by harnessing the visible light portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to transmit information at high speeds. It is similar to the way that wireless communications, such as wi-fi, use traditional radio frequency signals to transmit data.
For those of us non-techies out there, it essentially means using regular LED lights that you have around your home or office and making them act as wireless routers. It does this by making them flicker on and off extremely rapidly. A bit like a really hi-tech morse code.
Why do we need LiFi?
Now you might ask, “why do we need Li-Fi? Wi-fi routers work fine for us.”
There are a few reasons why Li-Fi is an appealing alternative, but two stand out.
One is that wi-fi router performance can often be hampered by the presence of multiple devices in a defined space. The use of multiple LED lights in the same space would result in no comparable loss of performance.
However, the most compelling reason for Li-Fi is its speed. In recent tests by a pioneering Estonian start-up, Velmenni, the team were able to transfer data at speeds of up to 1GBps in real-world scenarios. That is 100 times faster than traditional wi-fi!
Before you throw your wireless router out the window though, there is one significant limitation. Because Li-Fi relies on the transfer of data via light, it cannot go through walls. Whilst this means the technology is unlikely to replace the wi-fi we have in our homes, it is more than likely that it will come to supplement it. This undoubted weakness of the technology though can also be seen as one of its biggest strengths. In our ever increasingly connected world, network security is becoming more and more of a challenge. Li-Fi is extremely secure.
What does the future hold for Li-Fi?
With the game-changing speeds of data transfer so appealing, companies and organisations are looking at how best to harness the potential of this technology.
Disney, various airlines and intelligence agencies are just some of the organisations rumoured to be looking at Li-Fi and how they can utilise it.
Apple are even thought to have incorporated the potential to use it in their devices, after code in their latest version of their iOS, 9.1, was found.
Although the technology is not currently on the market yet, it soon will be. French lighting company, Lucibel, has stated it intends to release Li-Fi-enabled products later in the year.
With the Internet of Things growing steadily, it is surely only a matter of time before we start to see the technology turning up in our homes.
It seems it might not be too long before Professor Haas’ vision of the future is realised.
“In the future we will not only have 14 billion light bulbs, we may have 14 billion LiFis deployed worldwide for a cleaner, greener and even brighter future.”