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What is Li-Fi? An Overview

Don’t you think it’s time to shift to Li-Fi from Wi-Fi? This is an alternative technology that is much faster than average Wi-Fi speed.

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How will you react if I told you that each one of the billions of light bulbs around the world used as wireless hotspots for your electronic device will give you a data speed of 1 Gbps or about 100 times faster than the present Wi-Fi technology? You read that right. Li-Fi, the potential successor to Wi-Fi can turn this into the truth. Though Li-Fi has been in development for quite some time, it has come to the limelight just a few days before with Velmenni, an Estonian technology company beginning to achieve a speed of 1 Gbps in the office as well as industrial environments, as opposed to a lab.

Invention of Li-Fi

Harald Haas, a German physicist coined the term Li-Fi and introduced the technology at the TED conference in 2011.

Li-Fi could offer an internet speed that is 100 times faster than Wi-Fi. In the lab, the scientists have achieved speed up to 224 GB per second. This is equal to downloading eighteen movies in a few seconds.

Li-Fi Wins a Vote over Wi-Fi

The ever growing desire of people to transfer data at a faster pace is presently pushing Wi-Fi to its limits. Transmitting data using radio waves, it has its limits. It is estimated that by 2019, the world will be exchanging about 35 quintillion bytes of information each month. As radio frequencies are in use and are regulated quite heavily, the data will struggle a lot to find a spot in the line. Wi-Fi is presently running out of space.

Capacity is just a part of the problem and not the real trouble maker. We can’t say that Wi-Fi is an extremely effective solution. The base stations responsible for transmission of radio waves function at just 5% efficiency, as most of the energy is spent in cooling the stations. Security is also a concern for the ones transmitting sensitive data. This is because radio waves travel through solid objects like doors and walls.

Similar to radio waves, visible light is a part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The difference is that lights come with a spectrum that is 10,000 times bigger than radio waves. You can guess the potential Li-Fi has. Instead of transmitting information through one data stream, visible light will make transmission of the same information using thousands of data streams simultaneously.

One of the biggest advantages that Li-Fi has over Wi-Fi is that it does not interfere with the other radio signals. Thus, it is possible to utilize it on aircraft as well as other places where interference is an issue. Moreover, while the spectrum for radio wave is in short supply, the visible light spectrum is 10,000 times larger. Thus, it has little chance to run out soon.

Benefits of Li-Fi

Apart from speed, Li-Fi has several other advantages. According to Haas, there are three.

Efficiency

You are already using bulbs to provide light. If the same bulbs are used for data transmission, the job is done without any extra energy charges.

Availability

You see a light bulb everywhere; in your workplace or home. Wherever you see a light bulb, you see a high-speed data transmission source.

Security

Lights do not penetrate walls; so the transferred data is significantly more secure.

Downsides of Li-Fi

As this technology is still under development, several downsides are limiting its usage.

Li-Fi can no doubt deliver data at a pace faster than Wi-Fi, but its speed is dependent on the home or office internet service. If your internet speed is 1Gbps, your Li-Fi system will never go faster.

Li-Fi will also depend on the placement of the device. It must be within the range of the light that is transmitted by the Li-Fi bulb. You need to see the light to be able to receive the data. These limitations do not deter Haas. He points out, “these opportunities are on a similar scale as the photography industry’s move from analogue to digital technology.”

Li-Fi is a comparatively new technology and will certainly not negate or take over all the past technologies. Right now, consider Li-Fi as an addition to internet transmission technologies presently in use.

Written By

Steven Scheck is the Principal of Inspire WiFi, the nationwide leader of multifamily wifi and healthcare wifi. When he isn't bringing Wi-Fi to the masses, he enjoys spending time and traveling with his wife and 4 kids and occasionally gets in a round of golf. He is also very involved in philanthropic causes in Miami and nationally.

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