In a handful of offices and industrial facilities in Estonia, wireless data communication speeds reach 1 GB per second. Think Wi-Fi on steroids, at 100 times the bandwidth of average current wireless connections, and it’s all done without the traditional support technologies that underlie Wi-Fi installations. Magic? No, it’s Li-Fi, short for visible light communication, or VLC. Li-Fi operates at frequencies vastly beyond today’s wireless spectrum, and it soon may revolutionize the speed and security with which you connect to the Internet.

In 2011, Professor Harald Haas, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh, showed that he could exceed the data transmission of a cell phone tower with a single flickering LED transmitting a futuristic equivalent of Morse code. In the lab, VLC can operate at 224 GB per second. In the real world, Velmenni, a burgeoning company based in Estonia, became a finalist in a business startup competition in Helsinki, Finland, for its Li-Fi technology, and has begun pilot programs in Talinn, Estonia. Professor Haas has launched his own company, which offers a secure, plug-and-play wireless Internet connection operating at a Wi-Fi-like 11.5 MB per second. In France, Oledcomm is installing a Li-Fi solution for use in hospitals.

Li-Fi uses visible light at frequencies between 400 and 800 terahertz. The LEDs in a Li-Fi installation flicker at ultra-high speeds, transmitting binary code to move data through the air. These Li-Fi LED lamps flicker so quickly that the human eye perceives them as staying on continuously. Along with vastly superior speeds, Li-Fi exceeds Wi-Fi’s security capabilities because it uses light, which doesn’t penetrate through walls, keeping networked data safe within an office or factory.

Don’t look for Li-Fi to supplant Wi-Fi in the next five minutes, however. Replacing Wi-Fi would require a big investment in infrastructure to install Li-Fi instead. Until or unless that happens, regular lighting devices can serve as Li-Fi technology. Each lamp or light fixture would need a retrofitting microchip to enable it to transmit pulsed data rather than simply provide light. Another solution would combine Wi-Fi and Li-Fi into networks that could leverage each technology’s strengths.

If Li-Fi technology does catch on in the not-so-distant future, look for the LED light bulb in your desk lamp or track lighting to double as an environmentally friendly wireless data transmission and reception device. That’s a dual role that neither old-fashioned incandescent bulbs nor compact fluorescent lamps can undertake, further evidence that investing in green alternatives to environmentally wasteful lighting technologies can pay off in many forms of savings.

Published By : Earl Foote   On: 5th December, 2015