Li-Fi: The Brighter Way to Communicate

By V.P. Mahendru, Chairman – Managing Director, Eon Electric Ltd.

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Light Fidelity is a light-based Wi-Fi that can transmit data more swiftly, safely and securely, thereby holding immense potential for multiple domains.

Globally, Wi-Fi has been used for years to access and transmit data. But more often than not, Wi-Fi and their modems have elicited unsavoury remarks when more users have logged on. Li-Fi is now poised to transform for the better the scenario of data transfer and access.

Some readers may be wondering what Li-Fi or Light Fidelity is all about. Li-Fi is a bidirectional, high-speed, fully-networked wireless communications technology. In simple words, it can be considered a light-based Wi-Fi. Where radio waves are deployed to transmit data and information in Wi-Fi, Li-Fi uses light waves, which is faster and acts as a better tool for communication.

In Li-Fi, LED lamps fitted with transceivers can light a room and receive information too. Moreover, unlike Wi-Fi, which can hold limited access points only, Li-Fi can have multiple. Considered a Visible Light Communications (VLC) system that runs wireless communications at extremely high speeds, Li-Wi uses common household LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs to transfer data, ensuring speeds of up to 224 gigabits per second.

German physicist and University of Edinburg Professor Dr Harald Haas coined the term Li-Fi during a TED Talk in 2011. Haas visualised such light bulbs as efficient wireless routers. As a VLC system, it harbours a photo-detector to receive light signals and a signal processing element that converts data into ‘stream-able’ content.

A LED bulb is a semiconductor light source. Consequently, the constant current of electricity supplied to a LED bulb can be dimmed and dipped up and down at very high speeds without being detected by the human eye. For instance, data can be fed into a LED light bulb via signal-processing technology. Thereafter, this data is embedded in its beam and sent back at rapid speeds to the photo-detector or photodiode. Miniscule changes in the LED bulb’s swift dimming are converted by the receiver into electrical signals. Finally, the signal is reconverted into a binary data stream recognisable as web, video or audio applications running on Internet-enabled devices.

The spectrum of visible light is considered 10,000 times bigger than that of radio waves on the electromagnetic spectrum, which measures radiation frequency. Deploying light can avoid the expenses required for the limited range of radio waves.

Thanks to its multiple advantages over Wi-Fi, Li-Fi holds tremendous potential. As per projections, the global market is expected to expand to $115 billion by 2022, probably replacing Wi-Fi. In France, some grocery stores are already using it to track the shopping habits of customers. There are reports that Apple may be poised to deploy Li-Fi capabilities in versions of the iPhone, iOS 9.1 and upwards.

Haas asserts that if Li-Fi is incorporated into the existing 14 billion light bulbs, it can provide a more accessible, secure Internet service. Haas recommends retrofitting the Internet framework whereby Li-Fi bulbs can be supported. Backing his contention, he has set up pure LiFi – a company providing Internet speeds equal to first-generation Wi-Fi.

The USP of Li-Fi is not speed, though, but accessibility. Where a room can support only one Wi-Fi router, several Li-Fi light bulbs could be placed, denoting ample bandwidth for multiple users. Since light cannot pierce walls, it’s nearly impossible to steal sensitive data sent via Li-Fi. Conversely, cyber thieves can steal personal data from unsuspecting users at cyber cafes. Hackers could access even password-protected Wi-Fi. But Li-Fi is a secure alternative since data can be restricted to the room.

Finally, some high-security zones debar radio frequency, for example, petrochemicals plants, where they can trigger antenna sparks. But Li-Fi can be used safely. Clearly, its potential applications could be vast and mind-boggling. And this is barely the beginning of the Li-Fi saga…


 

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