We’ve all heard about Wi-Fi. But what about Li-Fi? You may not have heard much about Li-Fi before now, but that’s almost certainly about to change, now that the technology has moved out of the lab and been tested in the real world and achieved results that are leaving onlookers stunned with their success. What is Li-Fi? What impact will it have on business and consumer technology? Read on to learn more.
What Is Li-Fi?
Li-Fi is a wireless data transmission technology that sends information at high speeds through visible light communication (or VLC). Similar to Wi-Fi, Li-Fi is a way to send large amounts of data through wireless signals. Unlike Wi-Fi, lab tests for Li-Fi have been able to achieve speeds of 224 gigabits of data transmitted per second. In a recent trial held in offices in Estonia, researchers were able to achieve a real world data transmission speed of 1 GB per second. For comparison, that’s about 100 times faster than the average data transmission speed for Wi-Fi.[i]
Li-Fi was originally developed at the University of Edinburgh, by Scottish researcher Harald Haas. The technology behind Li-Fi is surprisingly simple: By flickering visible light with a wavelength between 400 and 800 terahertz in specific patterns, large amounts of data can be transmitted incredibly quickly.
If you’re having trouble conceptualizing the idea, think of it as an incredibly complex version of Morse code. In 2011, Haas was able to demonstrate that by flickering the light of a signal LED, it was possible to transmit incredibly large amounts of data almost instantly. In his tests, Haas was able to transmit more data than a cellular tower using just this method of visible light communication.
What’s the Future of Li-Fi?
As you can probably guess, Li-Fi has the potential to completely revolutionize the way we use the internet, in the same way that the change from dialup to high speed connections, and from land lines to Wi-Fi opened up a whole new world of technology and its uses. In addition to being faster (much, much faster) than Wi-Fi, Li-Fi is also more secure. Since the light used to transmit Li-Fi signals can’t pass through walls, it makes it much harder for cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to networks transmitted over a Li-Fi connection.
That said, it’s premature to expect that Li-Fi will be replacing all internet connections in the near future. For one, tearing out all the Wi-Fi infrastructure that’s been installed in homes, offices, and coffee shops around the world isn’t a particularly feasible option. Secondly, as impressive as the results have been, the testing phase for Li-Fi technology is still in its infancy. Many more tests will have to be held before you start finding superfast Li-Fi connections in homes or offices.
Despite being in its early phases, organizations such as airlines, businesses, and intelligence agencies have all expressed interest in the technology.[ii] As more research is conducted, expect to start hearing about Li-Fi networks appearing in different places, working in tandem with existing Wi-Fi infrastructure.
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