Where there is light there will soon be data.
Today, when we hear the term WiFi, we know what is meant. Which is down to the fact that it is a widely used data transfer technology that is now the norm in most offices, households and hotels. But only very few people are aware that the new LiFi technology will soon usurp the position of WiFi. As yet, it is still in its infancy. But in the world of digital IT, development cycles are much shorter and products ready to market much more quickly than in the analogue world. Anyone who gets to grips with light-based data transmission early in the game will be several steps ahead of the competition.
The mystery of LiFi demystified.
LiFi stands for Light Fidelity and is a form of data transmission using light (Visible Light Communication or VLC). Coined by German professor Harald Haas, the term LiFi refers to a process of optical data transmission over short distances. By using an LED as the semiconductor light source, data can be transmitted via light by flashing the LED at speeds higher than can be perceived by the human eye.
LiFi luminaires require an Internet connection via an Ethernet cable. A photodiode placed in the light beam below the luminaire serves as the receiver. An infra-red interface acts as the upstream channel. Based on the visible light spectrum, this bidirectional and wireless communication technology guarantees secure and economical data transmission. Economical because it makes use of the existing lighting system infrastructure. The spectrum of the light is 10,000 times broader than the spectrum of all radio frequencies. That means that this optical communication technology offers a much greater bandwidth than radio communication.
Transmission speeds as high as 224 Gbit/s – which is substantially faster than WiFi – have already been achieved under laboratory conditions. What is more, multiple users can connect to each LiFi luminaire.
Where LiFi leaves others in the shade.
Fundamentally, LiFi can be used anywhere where there is an existing lighting infrastructure. So we can expect this futuristic technology to be used at offices, hotels and events before too long. The technology offers advantages in situations where radio signals can be a problem due to electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) issues or where a higher level of data security is required.
Why LiFi offers opportunities in the restaurant and hotel trades.
LiFi can also offer substantial added value in the catering and hospitality sector. Imagine a guest wants a table in your restaurant where it is possible to conduct a confidential video conference. Or needs to be able to rely on a stable and reliable connection in the hotel room in the evening. Or to receive highly confidential e-mails in the lobby. Since the data can be sent and received solely from a specific light source, the reception zone is limited to the luminaire's light beam. The advantage of which is: access from outside by other people is not possible.
Where are we at today?
Regent Lighting has gone into the technology in great detail in recent years. Switzerland's leading lighting solution provider successfully presented its first ever functioning LiFi environment in the autumn of 2017. It centred around the connection of terminal devices for light-based wireless data communication. That test environment provides the basis for optimising performance and reliability as well as for developing marketable products that will be ready to launch in the next two years. Initial pilot projects are already underway.