Everyone wants faster Wi-Fi! But, what if you don’t even need Wi-Fi while accessing the internet 100 times faster through your light bulb? Well, an innovative technology called Li-Fi makes this possible.
When I first heard of Li-Fi, it sounded like just a pun on the word Wi-Fi. But, Harald Haas, a professor at the University of Edinburgh, coined the term Li-Fi (Light Fidelity) in a Ted Talk in 2011 where he envisaged a world where light bulbs would act as wireless routers.
So, Li-Fi technology is completely different and a welcome change in the world of telecom and network connectivity as it gives us a world where every light can connect us to the internet.
What Is Li-Fi?
The ubiquitously-used Wi-Fi employs radio waves to transmit electromagnetic signals to send data, while Li-Fi uses visible light to do the same. Although a few companies are working on commercializing it, it is yet to reach the point where it can be expected to serve millions of people around the world.
How Does Li-Fi Work?
Li-Fi is a Visible Light Communications (VLC) system in which the light signals are received by a photo-detector and the data is converted into content that can be streamed. The data is fed into the LED light bulb, using signal processing technology, and sent to the photo-detector at rapid speeds. The rapid, but constant dimming, of LED bulbs is converted into electric signals which are subsequently converted into streams of binary data which is what we see on the internet in various formats.
Is Li-Fi Being Applied?
Philips Lights is the first global lighting company that is providing Li-Fi-based light bulbs for offices. Also, Newsweek reported that Apple could also be in the works of building iPhones with Li-Fi capabilities. Some of the other companies that are working on Li-Fi technologies include PureLi-Fi, General Electric, LG Innotek, Wipro, Sunpartner Technologies, Panasonic Corporation, Samsung Electronics, and LG Electronics.
How About Li-Fi in India?
Harald Haas opined that “Li-Fi technology will help Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to provide the internet to the rural areas.” This has not yet been made possible, but research into Li-Fi in India is already underway.
For example, the Education and Research Network (ERNET), a scientific institution under the Indian IT ministry, in association with Philips India, conducted a pilot at IIT Madras to see what impact Li-Fi can make. In a controlled environment, they were able to produce the internet at speeds of 10 GBPS within a 1 km radius.
Also, Velmenni Research, a Delhi-based startup founded by Deepak Solanki in 2012, is trying to get leeway in this space by providing the internet through LED lights.
Deepak’s presentation in a startup event in Finland impressed the people at Airbus (a giant in the aeronautical world) and they even tested a pilot on an A-350 flight mockup. As a company that has successfully conducted Li-Fi runs across several places, Velmenni Research is currently working on a Li-Fi system that would work under industrial conditions.
What Are the Positives of the Li-Fi Technology?
- It reaches speeds of 224 Gbps (although only in lab conditions). So, it’s a 100 times faster than Wi-Fi.
- Li-Fi’s impressive speeds could create a big storm in the world of the internet, especially because it allows more devices to be connected with each other.
- Its short range makes it much more secure than Wi-Fi.
- LED light bulbs are used extensively these days and it could easily be used to create Li-Fi hotspots in the streets.
- The Li-Fi network can significantly cut costs if the LED bulbs are integrated with solar panels. And, with more and more entities working on this technology, Li-Fi will only become cheaper and more effective.
- Li-Fi can be used in places where there is interference of radio frequencies with equipment, for example in hospitals or aircrafts. For instance, Wi-Fi is currently not allowed in operation theatres due to concerns of radiation because Wi-Fi is known to interfere with the signals of medical equipment.
- It can be used underground where the Wi-Fi signals are touted to be weak.
- Li-Fi can be used as a means of effective communication with the public during times of disaster where places like subway stations, tunnels and similar zones would be bereft of connectivity.
- It can also be used to communicate with vehicles that pass by you in the vicinity to send alerts or give real-time traffic updates.
What Are the Negatives of the Li-Fi Technology?
- Li-Fi signals don’t pass through walls. So, you’ll have to install LED bulbs in every room in your home to get connectivity.
- Li-Fi requires the LED light bulb to be on at all times, even during the day time.
- Shadows, direct sunlight or normal electric lights can prevent Li-Fi from reaching a USB sensor.
- There is a high initial cost associated with installing Li-Fi for setting up a full-fledged network.
- Li-Fi is yet to be available for mass adoption.
Li-Fi will surely be a game-changer in the long run as it has truckloads of potential and can be considered as a technology that will affect the masses. What we have to consider now is how the companies that are building applications and services around it are progressing.
There also needs to be wide implementation to see its potential in full glory. Until that happens, we can only speculate about the extent of its use.
So, what’s your opinion about the new Li-Fi technology? Do you have any questions? Please feel free to leave your comments below.