Will LiFi Make WiFi Obsolete?

Li-Fi stands for Light Fidelity and is a form of Visible Light Communications (VLC). It is proposed as a system that provides wireless communications at very high data transfer speeds. This tech utilizes common LED lights to provide data transfer which may well boast speeds of 224 gigabits per second. That equates to around 18 movies of 1.5 GB each being downloaded every single second. Not too shabby.

Harald Haas, a University of Edinburgh Professor, coined the phrase during his TED talk in 2011. He envisioned wireless routers that were in the form of light bulbs. Fantastic. After four years of research, Haas set up the company pureLiFi in 2012 with the aim “to be the world leader in Visible Light Communications technology”.

As we all know, various existing wireless data transfer technologies use differing frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum. Wi-fi is a good example which uses radio waves whereas Li-Fi, if you hadn’t guessed, uses visible light instead. Given this, the technology requires a photo-detector to receive light signals and a processor to convert the data into streamable content.

Being semiconductors, LEDs allow for their electrical current to be dipped and dimmed at extremely high speeds. What’s more, the human eye can’t even notice the difference. Clearly, this is incredibly important when utilized for data transfer where data fed into the LED bulb through signal processing can then be embedded into the light beam at rapid speeds to the receiving photodetector (photodiode). These tiny changes in the rapid dimming of the bulb can then be converted by the receiver into a useful digital signal.

VLC uses visible light between the 400 and 800 terahertz (THz) frequencies. In effect, it acts like a highly advanced Morse Code. The transmitting light sources turn on and off, well dim actually, in a certain pattern which relays the data that can be converted into a binary signal. Because LEDs can “flicker” at higher frequencies than the human eye can detect.

This converted signal can then be ‘understood’ as binary data that can be streamed as web, video and audio applications that run on internet enabled devices.

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