No Wi-Fi; It’s Li-Fi Power for IoT

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The 802.11 WiFi standard is celebrating its 26th birthday this month; the technology has enrooted our lives. For years, WiFi essentially owned the 2.4 GHz ISM and 5 GHz U-NII bands. With Internet of things, feature expansion and ever increasing data rate demands, the technology faces major challenges ahead. However a new ray of hope comes from Visible Light Communication – the technology in evolution is Li-Fi.

Yes! Just imagine the light bulb in your house and vicinity becomes the next data transmitter and provides the speed of light for all forms of device communication. Li-Fi can enable a home television that communicates with every other gadget around, including the ability to project your smart phone’s display onto it for easy presentation to large groups. It can prove to be a boon to road traffic where a lighted highway provides motorists with real-time traffic and weather news, as well as internet access to all devices inside. The possibilities seem endless, and the potential is much broader than at first thought.

LI-FI or Light Fidelity is a technology that makes use of light waves instead of radio technology to deliver data.

An Estonian startup called Velmenni used a Li-Fi-enabled lightbulb to transmit data at speeds as fast as 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), which is about 100 times faster than current Wi-Fi technology, meaning a high-definition film could be downloaded within seconds.

How does Li-Fi work?

This Visible Light Communication (VLC) works 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. You might worry about how all that flickering lights would drive you crazy, don’t worry – these are LEDs that can be switched on and off at speeds imperceptible to the naked eye.

Theoretically, speeds of up to 10Gbps can be achieved using such a system. The basic principle which is used in this technique is Intensity Modulation (IM). Depending on the changes in the intensity of light, the information is varied. As a consequence, the signal that modulates the LED strictly has to be positive and real valued (power can never be negative or complex).

Is Apple interested in LI-Fi?

Interestingly, iOS 9.1, the operating system’s library cache file makes mention of “LiFiCapability” alongside other hardware and software capability declarations. The change was spotted by Twitter user Chase Fromm and independently confirmed by AppleInsider.

In its interest for Li-fi a patent US20140125852 filed in 2013 and assigned to Apple describes a method of “optical modulation using an image sensor.”

What does LiFi offer?

In simple words, Li-Fi uses light rather than radio frequency signals, which makes this technology tolerant to disturbances. With several international airlines offering Wi-Fi facility on-board, VLC technology can better this offering without disrupting radio signals for piloting the aircraft. Li-Fi can also be leveraged underwater with the use of a light source – a place where Wi-Fi doesn’t work. This means that underwater diving and expeditions can be enhanced with greater internet connectivity.

An important aspect associated with Li-Fi is its Security features. Since light does not penetrate walls, Li-Fi can be used for safe data transfers.

With smart cities taking shape, vehicles can include Li-Fi-enabled LED headlights and tail lights that can communicate with signals, surrounding vehicles and even emergency services simple with the power of their light.

Li-Fi is an emerging technology and hence it has vast potential. A lot of research has been conducted in this field. The scientific community has begun extensively researching in this field. If this technology is leveraged efficiently, we might soon have something of the kind of Wi-Fi hotspots wherever a light bulb is available, making it a cleaner and greener future for communication technology that can easily reach out to remote parts of the world too.

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Vidya Meshram
Vidya Meshram

Vidya likes to imagine possibilities. She strongly believes that every small quanta of contribution from people has made the world a better place, and that patents are valued treasures that keep these contributions eternal. Inquisitive about technology, she is biased towards the world of semiconductor physics and photonics.

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