LiFi: Internet Connection Through My Lightbulb?
Yes, Internet connection through your lightbulb, known as LiFi: one concept that would turn a LED lightbulb into a wireless router. The idea was publicly presented in 2011 by German physicist, Harold Haas, who started a company called pureLiFi in 2012, with others who were researching the technology since 2008. His idea: to make LiFi technology practical in a lightbulb, and act as a wireless router.
So, What Really Is LiFi?
LiFi is described as visible light communication technology that transmits data, like mobile communications, at high speeds through a light source (lightbulb). It’s similar to WiFi technology in that WiFi also transmits data at high speeds, but LiFi uses light with a LED bulb, and WiFi uses radio waves with a wireless router. This new technology is said to be 100 times faster than WiFi, having already been tested outside a laboratory in office settings in Tallinn, Estonia. The LiFi technology that was being used in Estonia transmitted data at 1GB per second (this is equivalent to a high-definition movie being downloaded within seconds!)
How Does LiFi Work?
It’s hard to sum up how the technology really works, so let’s get an accurate description from the company said to be the LiFi technology leader. According to pureLiFi:
“When a constant current is applied to an LED [light-emitting-diode] lightbulb, a constant stream of photons are emitted from the bulb which is observed as visible light. If the current is varied slowly, the output intensity of the light dims up and down. Because LED bulbs are semiconductor devices, the current, and hence the optical output, can be modulated at extremely high speeds which can be detected by a photodetector device and converted back to electrical current. The intensity modulation is imperceptible to the human eye, and thus communication is just as seamless as RF [radio frequency technology]. Using this technique, high-speed information can be transmitted from an LED lightbulb.”
Pros and Cons of LiFi
- FAST – 100 times faster than WiFi.
- Better Security – It is said that since LiFi cannot pass through walls like WiFi, it will be a better secured connection. Better security = continuous data transmission with a more productive use of mobile apps.
- Needs Direct Light Contact – A connection cannot be established unless devices are in direct contact to the light source. This means that unlike WiFi, LiFi cannot pass through walls. In order to get connection throughout an entire area, these LED lightbulbs with LiFi technology would need to be installed in all rooms for a continuous connection.
- Cannot Work Outdoors – The technology is for indoor use only, meaning we won’t see it replace WiFi for public use anytime soon.
- Cost – Since we already have a WiFi connection established throughout our homes and offices, the cost to implement a new form of infrastructure to get connected by light might not be worth the money, just yet.
There have been many articles out there within the past few days about Apple already testing the LiFi technology within their iOS software. Code has been identified in iOS 9.1 that hints at the fact that Apple may be experimenting with LiFi for device compatibility, or maybe even for the chance to create its own lightbulbs to work on future Apple devices.
We don’t know what LiFi has in store for us in the future, but we do know that it’s another form of wireless technology that has gotten a lot of looks recently. Will it trump WiFi? I don’t think so, but it may be implemented in some areas in conjunction with WiFi sooner than we think. It’s a cool concept that may go far, or may be a total dud. All we need is LED lightbulb manufacturers to place the small chips in them, and we have the power of light to establish a connection. Will it be a success or a total failure? Only time will tell.
Would you use LiFi?