Real-world testing of Li-Fi, an advanced wireless communication technology, has found it to be 100 times faster than currently-available Wi-Fi networks. Reporting impressive data transmission rates of around 1 GB per second, the new system was recently trialled, for the first time, in office and industrial settings in Tallinin, Estonia. At such speeds, it would take mere seconds to download a high-definition film of 1.5 GB.
Developed back in 2011 by scientist Harald Haas, of the University of Edinburgh, Li-Fi is a high speed, bidirectional wireless technology based on visible light communication (VLC). Using visible light ranging from 400 to 800 terahertz (THz), the technology can transmit data in binary code, by switching LED bulbs on and off within nanoseconds. The bulbs are turned on and off at too high a speed to be visible to the naked eye.
In the past, lab tests of Li-Fi have yielded incredibly high speeds of up to 224 gigabit per second. Apart from faster data transmission, Li-Fi boasts several advantages over current Wi-Fi technologies. Sicne light waves cannot pass through walls, it ensures less interference between different devices and greater security against hacking. Furthermore, unlike other networks, it can be safely used in sensitive areas, like hospitals, airplane cabins and nuclear power plants, without causing any kind of electromagnetic interference.
While Li-Fi indeed has the power to completely replace current Wi-Fi networks in the coming decades, researchers believe that creating a whole new infrastructure for the latest technology would prove difficult. Perhaps, the most efficient system would be one in which the two technologies work in tandem. As a result, scientists are currently looking for ways to retrofit existing devices to make them compatible with the new technology. Haas, the inventor of Li-Fi, said:
All we need to do is fit a small microchip to every potential illumination device and this would then combine two basic functionalities: illumination and wireless data transmission. In the future we will not only have 14 billion light bulbs, we may have 14 billion Li-Fis deployed worldwide for a cleaner, greener, and even brighter future.
For the very first time, the technology has been tested in real-world environments, by Estonia-based company Velmenni. According to Deepak Solanki, the CEO of Velmenni, high speed Li-Fi networks will likely be available to consumers within the next three or four years. He added:
We are doing a few pilot projects within different industries where we can utilize the VLC (visible light communication) technology. Currently we have designed a smart lighting solution for an industrial environment where the data communication is done through light. We are also doing a pilot project with a private client where we are setting up a Li-Fi network to access the internet in their office space.
A few months back, we talked about a similar technology, currently being developed by Brown University scientists, that uses terahertz waves to wirelessly deliver data at speeds hundred times faster than the Wi-Fi and cellular networks of present times.