How many lightbulbs do you see or pass every day? A few dozen? Or perhaps a few hundred? Imagine every single light bulb not only giving you light but also working as a wireless hotspot – and this a hundred times faster (about one gigabit per second) than our current Wi-Fi technology.
Well, that might soon become reality, with Li-Fi technology.
Li-Fi was invented by Harald Haas, a German professor from the University of Edinburgh, back in 2011.
The technology uses Visible Light Communication (VLC), a medium that uses visible light between 400 and 800 terahertz (THz). It works basically like an incredibly advanced form of Morse code – just like switching a torch on and off according to a certain pattern can relay a secret message, flicking an LED on and off at extreme speeds can be used to write and transmit things in binary code.
For an interactive way to learn what Li-Fi is about, check out the video below:
For the first time, Li-Fi has been tested and implemented outside of the lab – in an industrial complex in Tallinn, Estonia.
According to Deepak Solanki, CEO of Velmenni (Estonian tech company), the current tests are targeted for business clients, where the data communication is done through light. However, one project is also working on bringing Li-Fi technology to private homes. The results will be published soon.
So… Besides the speed, what are the other benefit of Li-Fi? It’s simple: security. Why? Because light cannot pass through walls, and thus makes it much harder to hack. A side effect is also that there will be less interference with other devices. Another benefit may be availability: at work, at home, on a train and even on a smartphone – every light bulb that you can may be a potential source of high-speed data transmission.
The potential for this technology is huge, but the problem is that all our infrastructure is based on the Wi-Fi technology. This means that a rapid change to the Li-Fi is rather unlikely, but, a solution to this may be to make it compatible with the current technology & infrastructure. This is what Haas and his team are doing right now with PureLiFi: working on a plug-and-play application with secure connection and high-speed internet (tough not as fast as with the “standard” Li-Fi technology). In addition, a French start-up called Oledcomm is already planning on introducing Li-Fi into hospitals, where the interference plays a big role.
Critics have named two downsides to this technology:
- it cannot be used outside and
- light pollution
As you can see, the future is taking place right now! And to finish with the words of Mr. Haas: “In the future we will not only have 14 billion light bulbs, we may have 14 billion Li-Fis deployed worldwide for a cleaner, greener, and even brighter future.” (TED Talk 2011 – see below to watch the whole talk, and fast forward to 5:30 for the really interesting stuff)
Bring it on.