Wi-Fi has become a human requirement nearly as vital as breathing and an aspect of everyday life as common as getting dressed.
That photo of the cat you just saw on Instagram, the news that just broke on Twitter, the Snapchat of your friend with a glass of wine in her hand – there is a strong chance that a Wi-Fi connection was used for each.
A recent study by Gigaom predicts that by 2020, 24 billion devices will be connected to the internet and the vast majority of these will use some form of wireless access.
With this growth in devices comes higher consumer expectations and demands, namely for seamless connectivity in coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, train stations, shopping centres and other every day locations, and faster speeds. Whether Wi-Fi is capable of meeting these demands in its current form is a subject still up for debate, leading some to question how suited the technology is to deliver future internet capabilities. So, when a new method of delivering data with capabilities of delivering a service up to 100 times faster than traditional Wi-Fi was recently tested in a working office there was huge cause for celebration.
The company behind the testing is aiming to transform the modern light bulb into a superfast hub of 1Gbps connectivity.
The technology – dubbed LiFi – was invented by Professor Harald Haas from the University of Edinburgh. It requires a light source, such as a standard LED bulb, an internet connection and a photo detector. Estonian start-up company Velmenni, a manufacturer of smart LED bulbs, has recently tested the technology and found it was able to transmit data at 1GB/sec.
The results of the pilot testing, carried out within office and industrial environments in Tallinn, showed connection rates of more than 100 times faster than current Wi-Fi throughput. This is achieved through the technology using the visible light spectrum rather than radio waves to transmit data. Currently, this is done with standard LED bulbs equipped with a special chip, and then a special receiver capable of interpreting the light signals is attached to the receiving device.
With the radio wave spectrum currently in short supply, coupled with ever-increasing bandwidth demands on networks, the visible light spectrum, which happens to be 10,000 times larger, is unlikely to run out any time soon.
Also, as LiFi does not interfere with other radio signals, deployment opportunities are increased, with potential for implementation in environments which traditionally pose interference issues, such as aircraft.
Velmenni’s CEO Deepak Solanki told the International Business Times that the company is currently doing pilot projects within different industries where the Visible Light Communication (VLC) technology can be utilised.
As with any technology, there are inevitable pitfalls which can take the shine away. With LiFi there are a series of issues preventing widespread deployment. Firstly, the technology could not be used outdoors, as natural light and sunlight would severely interrupt the signal strength. Additionally, light signals cannot pass through walls, which limits the capabilities of LiFi being used as a sole network to connect to.
The most legitimate business case for LiFi argued is that it could effectively supplement an existing Wi-Fi infrastructure. Solanki himself admitted: “It is very difficult to create a whole new infrastructure for LiFi so somehow we need to integrate our system with the current system.”
With Professor Haas stating current infrastructure is suitable for the integration of LiFi, it could certainly be an interesting time to start watching the likes of Velmenni as it takes the next steps towards creating a bright future for LiFi.