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Mace & Crown | December 11, 2017

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Move Over Wi-Fi, Li-Fi is Here

Ross Reelachart
Technology Editor

The successor to Wi-Fi could replace the light over your head in the very near future.

“Li-Fi” is the light-based wireless connection that is set to enter commercial production and availability within the next few years, according to Velmenni, an Estonian startup that was a finalist at the Slush 100 startup competition in Helsinki. The technology itself has recently left the research lab and has now begun real world trials within office and industrial complexes in Tallinn, Estonia. “Currently we have designed a smart lighting solution for an industrial environment where the data communication is done through light. We are also doing a pilot project with a private client where we are setting up a Li-Fi network to access the internet in their office space.” Deepak Solanki, CEO of Velmenni, told International Business Times UK.

The big breakthrough behind Li-Fi is it uses visible light, the kind that comes out of any lightbulb, to wirelessly transmit data at speeds up to one gigabits per second(and up to 224 GBps in laboratory conditions), which is over 100 times faster than current Wi-Fi technology. Li-FiResembling any ordinary LED light bulb, Li-Fi provides a massive amount of wireless bandwidth to any device or user within range. Such each of access, and installation, could vastly improve network communication within a confined space. Such is also the limitation of Li-Fi. It requires direct line-of-sight connection with any device, and cannot penetrate solid objects as Wi-Fi does.

The technology of Li-Fi was actually conceived several years ago when University of Edinburgh professor of mobile communications Harald Haas gave a TED talk about wireless communication via light. Haas makes an apt comparison between Li-Fi and a technology that already exists: television remotes. Television remotes transmit an infrared beam that carries small amounts of data in a low-speed stream. Li-Fi would attempt to send thousands of high-speed data streams in parallel via visible light from an LED bulb. Haas also explains that the line-of-sight limitations of Li-Fi can be a good thing for security, as Li-Fi connections can safely be contained within a room or building without outside access or influence.

Another shortcoming of Li-Fi is that it requires some amount of existing infrastructure in order to function properly, and that infrastructure does not exist. It’s an issue that Velmenni is aware of, and they are working on ways to integrate Li-Fi into the infrastructure that exists now. Li-FiBut this limitation is mitigated by the idea that Li-Fi will not replace all wireless communications. Instead, it will be another option that works within the existing networks alongside Wi-Fi and cellular communications. Ideally, Li-Fi would take the place of Wi-Fi within localized areas like individual homes or business, Wi-Fi would connect those individual locations and wired communications would cover even longer distances.

Li-Fi is possibly less than five years away from full integration into the modern technology paradigm. A french company contracted with Haas’ own company pureLiFi is set release a Li-Fi compatible smart device some time in 2016. After that, maybe every other light bulb in a building will allow you to access the Internet, fast.