I don’t want to panic anyone but recently the US Federal Comms Commission issued a warning that we are fast running out of Wifi capacity. Over congestion points towards a frustrating future of endless buffering as everything from your watch, phone to kitchen appliances will be sending and receiving data over Wifi. Before you run down to your local electronics store to panic buy extra routers fear not a solution has been proposed. Enter LiFi….light fidelity….it’s like wifi only it distributes internet connectivity via lights rather than radiowaves. Fear not the future of the internet is looking bright as LiFi provides light at the end of the tunnel (Yes!!! Two light puns in 1 sentence).
LiFi was first presented to the world as a concept during a TED Global Talk in 2011 by Professor Harold Haas of University of Edinburgh. In his talk Professor Haas described a cheaper, more secure and faster means of communicating by using LED light. It works by rapidly switching LED light on and off within nanoseconds to broadcast the signal. This flicker would be invisible to the human eye. As light cannot penetrate walls, LiFi would be contained to specific rooms, making it less vulnerable to hacking. Wherever you have a light bulb you can have connectivity. In 2011 we were told about potential speeds ranging from 70mb/s to 10 gigabits/s.
Fast forward to November 2015 and scientists have taken their visible light technology (VLC) out of the lab and into the real world. Tests carried out in an office setting in Tallinn, Estonia by New Delhi based tech company,Velmenni, have produce some amazing results. Lab tests produced speeds of 224 gigabits/s. To put that in perspective that’s 18 movies per second. That’s all well and good where you have direct line of sight between a computer and light source but in the real world your light signal would be bouncing off walls, ceilings and floors whilst also battling against interference. Velmenni’s real world tests in an Estonian office building managed to achieve data transmissions at 1 Gb/s. That is enough to have most office based workers drooling with excitement.
There are a number of companies currently working on exciting projects to bring LiFi technology to a market that is estimated to be worth $118bn in the next seven years. Professor Haas’ PureLiFi company aim to be pioneers of this new faster, greener way of transmitting data. PureLiFi are working on many products including a retrofittable VLC technology. Instead of having to replace every light in a home or office, microchips can be potentially added to existing lights. PureLiFi are also currently testing some plug and play solutions for private and commercial use.