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Li-Fi - Re Inventing Light

20th December 2016

The Internet is now the modern world’s fuel. Every day there are new vehicles that help deliver the web to every single one of us. However, this is about to change with Li-Fi.


We have access to the Internet everywhere via Wi-Fi. In technical terms, Wi-Fi or wireless is a communication technology that does not use cables, and is usually transmitted via radio frequency, infrared etc. To access a Wi-Fi network it is necessary to be in the coverage area of an access point or hotspot. But we have all experienced interrupted connections too many times. However, this is about to change with Li-Fi. Li-Fi combines two basic functionalities: wireless data transmission and illumination.



Li-Fi promises to replace Wi-Fi


Li-Fi or “Light Fidelity” was only a very vague concept in 2010 but it promised to revolutionise everything connected through wireless and even wireless itself. And this change will be driven mainly by the electrical industry through lighting. We are technology fans, we love everything to do with emerging technologies, but this is THE future of what we now call information transmission. Li-Fi is officially the nomenclature used for wireless communications in a bidirectional network using a form of visible light communication, unlike traditional radio frequencies.


The technology is being developed as a potential alternative to Wi-Fi and, because Li-Fi uses a visible 5G light (or infra-red and near ultraviolet), to transmit data, researchers believe that Li-Fi may offer much higher speeds than those obtained by contemporary Wi-Fi technology. It is so far measured to be about 100 times faster than some Wi-Fi implementations.


These results were published in the Journal Photonics Technology Letter, which contains all of the details on how these Li-Fi LEDs operate in different fields of view and bandwidth, which affect the transmission speed. The link operates over a distance of three metres at a speed of 224 Gbps and 112 Gbps with a wide field of view (FOV) of 60° and 36° respectively.


Li-Fi works with visible light communications (VLC). VLC works by turning on and off the light sources in a period of nanoseconds - too quick to be noticed by the human eye. Although Li-Fi light sources have to be on to transmit data, they can be adjusted (with the aid of a dimmer) at a point that it is invisible to humans, but still retain its functionality.


The light waves cannot penetrate walls, thus reducing its scope; however this makes it safer from hackers, compared to Wi-Fi. The University of Edinburgh ranked Li-Fi as a safer technology than current wireless technology. Furthermore Li-Fi does not require direct line

of sight to transmit signal, the light is reflected off the walls and can reach 70 Mbps.


It’s faster than a bullet


Yes, Li-Fi still has a long way to go before it can be used as a commercial product. But this technology has already been in development for a few years, and has not ceased to evolve.  Researchers at Oxford University have achieved a new benchmark when it comes to network connections using the Li-Fi technology.


The researchers were able to convey, in a bidirectional circuit, a speed of 224 gigabits per second (Gbps). In illustrative terms, at a speed of 224 Gbps, we could technically download 18 movies, (each as big as 1.5 GB) simultaneously in only one second. Very impressive. And if you don’t think so, let’s explain why you should.



Fibre optic networks at a speed of 100 Gbps only became a reality in recent years but have not yet become ubiquitous. These optic networks are still rare animals; they are only available in important areas of our big cities.


Li-Fi will turn every LED lamp into a wireless access point, which effectively allows any user to move between sources without losing the connection.



Wi-Fi is close to reaching its capacity limit, and Li-Fi, for its ability, has almost no limits. And if you think this is going to cost, you’re wrong...


A bright future for LED


Li-Fi is expected to be ten times cheaper and friendlier to the environment than Wi-Fi. The emerging technology has the potential to provide Internet connections safely, and at low cost, in areas where it is imperative that the data does not cross unwanted barriers, which makes Li-Fi the perfect tech as light cannot pass through walls.


The control of this technology allows all content to be adapted to specific locations. Whoever sends the data will know exactly who is receiving and where, filtering it by type of data and by square metre within the same room. That’s different spotlights in one room, crossing several beams and keeping the connection and constant data at all sites.


In the future, LEDs will rely on being used as an ultra-fast alternative to Wi-Fi. We already have the infrastructure; we can use it for communications. If we think globally, we are talking about 14 billion lamps into which we can insert Li-Fi chips, 14 billion possible hotspots all of which are much cleaner and more functional than the current technology.


Li-Fi will reduce the weight of the current technology, avoid cables and provide each one of us with an Internet connection just above our heads. The Li-Fi market will grow 82% by 2018 and will be worth more than £4 billion. Light beams can carry information that can be used anywhere. Our cars can communicate with each other, and they can communicate with road light signals. City lighting can be used as hotspots - a step towards moving the Internet of Things to a realistic level.


Li-Fi, the whole package


Li-Fi will turn every LED lamp into a wireless access point, which effectively allows any user to move between sources without losing the connection. Li-Fi has the advantage of being suitable for use in areas sensitive to electromagnetic waves such as aircraft cabins, hospitals and nuclear power plants, because it does not cause electromagnetic interference.


Li-Fi - it seems - will certainly transmute communication - but it will also generate new revenue within the lighting industry. The truth is that Wi-Fi will soon disappear and it will be substituted with Li-Fi anywhere and everywhere.




Extract taken from Voltimum’s Smart Electrician - ISSUE 04 | 2016


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