What’s 100x faster than Wifi and twice as awesome? The real world testing and application of LiFi, that’s what. Just imagine… downloading more than a dozen movies in a single second.
The LiFi buzz hit the circuit at the end of last year and while still not proven, caught the attention of internet and eCommerce experts worldwide. Fast forward a few months and now, LiFi has taken off its training wheels and is going for a spin in the real world. Scientists around the globe are field testing LiFi in office and industrial settings, frequently documenting data transmission rates at 1GB per second – that’s 100 times faster than current average WiFi speeds!
What is LiFi?
LiFi technology is similar to WiFi, but instead it uses light instead of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum. The system takes advantage of the ability to flicker LED light bulbs billions of times a second, simply by modulating the current. That’s far too fast to register with the human eye! These innovative systems can operate even when the bulbs are dimmed to the point they appear to be off. Just think of LiFi as an incredibly advanced form of Morse code. Just as turning a flashlight off and on can relay a coded message, the light from LEDs can ‘flicker’ very quickly to write and transmit secure binary data.
LiFi technology is widely believed to have been invented by Professor Harald Haas, mobile communications professor at the University of Edinburgh, though similar ideas and projects are being worked on in China, India and more.
Just How Fast Is This Stuff?
LiFi technology uses Visible Light Communication (VLC), a medium that uses visible light between 400 and 800 terahertz (THz). LEDs can be modulated to very rapid rates. Data rates as high as 3.5 gigabytes (GB) per second using a single blue LED, or 1.7 gigabytes (GB) per second with white light, have been demonstrated by researchers. This new technology can, in theory, offer speeds of up to 224 GB per second. That’s so fast that it could transfer and download 18 movies in less than one second!
In addition to its enhanced speed, the light technology behind LiFi is affected by very little interference, unlike with radio signals. This is because it has a substantially broader spectrum than radio waves. Compare LiFi using visible light that range from 400 to 800 Terahertz (THz) to WiFi, which uses an unlicensed radio spectrum of 5 Gigahertz (GHz) and is in short supply. LiFi operates on a spectrum 10,000 times larger than that of radio waves. This open, interference-free wavelength contributes to a greater ability to manage user traffic that greatly affects transmitting speed.
But Is It Secure, safe enough for eCommerce business owners and shoppers?
LiFi allows for greater security on local networks (LAN). Unlike WiFi transmitters, Visible Light Communications (VLC) are contained within a room’s walls. Initially, this limitation seems problematic for LiFi, but take moment to consider, it’s actually a major advantage in security. To secure data, just close the blinds, then nobody outside the room can access that rooms LiFi signal.
Setting up an array of lights in the ceiling, could send different signals to different users, similar to a spotlight for each workspace. In this way, transmitter power could be focused to be more efficiently used and interference between adjacent LiFi sources could be prevented. The lack of radio frequency interference is a huge advantage over WiFi. Visible light communications is intrinsically safe, and could end the need for travelers to switch devices to flight mode.
Is The Sci-Fi Tech Future Here?!
Not quite yet, but it’s getting closer every day. While it’s unlikely that LiFi will replace WiFi on a commercial basis anytime in the near future, the technology could become available in three to four years, according to Velmenni CEO Deepak Solanki. As soon as it’s offered, LiFi will have a ready market. Until then there are a few companies already working to provide LiFi:
- PureLiFi, a company started by LiFi creator, Harald Haas, offers a plug-and-play application for secure, wireless Internet access at 11.5 MB per second, making it equivalent to first generation WiFi rates.
- Velmenni, according to CEO Deepak Solanki, has already designed a smart lighting solution for an industrial environment where the data communication is done through light. They also run a pilot project with a private client who is setting up a LiFi network to access the Internet in their office space.
- Oledcomm, a French tech company, is in the process of installing LiFi technology in local hospitals, where WiFi is unsafe because of the risk of radio frequency interference.
Harald Haas said it best in his TED talk, “All we need to do is fit a small microchip to every potential illumination device and this would then combine two basic functionalities: illumination and wireless data transmission. In the future, we will not only have 14 billion light bulbs, we may have 14 billion LiFi’s deployed worldwide for a cleaner, greener, and even brighter future.”
LiFi is a game changer, and while it might not replace WiFi for a while (or ever), the technologies could be used in parallel to create more efficient networks until current systems have been retrofit. Once the infrastructure is in place, it has the potential to change to world. Using light bulbs to transmit data has the potential to close the digital divide, allowing internet access in the even most remote areas around the globe. Imagine the possibilities!
So… is LiFi Really 100x Faster Than WiFi and Twice as Awesome? Yup. And some would say a lot more awesome than that.