We’ve all been in situations where we are unable to stream videos or download the lecture notes quickly, thanks in no small part to weak Wi-Fi connection. Today, in the 21st century, these two are some of the biggest reasons for broken computer and phone screens: the much detested buffering circle and Google Chrome dinosaur.
Luckily for us, engineers realised this problem and came up with a solution: Li-Fi! In 2011, during his TED Global Talk, Professor Harald Haas, Professor of Mobile Communications at the University of Edinburgh, coined this term. So what exactly is Li-Fi? And how can we benefit from it?
What is Li-Fi?
Li-Fi (Light Fidelity) is a technology for wireless communication between two or more devices, using light as a medium. Light, as we know it, travels at a very high speed, thus being a perfect medium to transmit data. With Li-Fi, your regular household LED bulbs act as the router, thus enabling speeds of up to 224 gigabits per second (for comparison, the average theoretical data transfer speed of Wi-Fi is 600 megabits per second).
How does Li-Fi work?
Li-Fi comprises of a wireless network of multiple light bulbs, offering a similar user experience to Wi-Fi. But, where Wi-Fi uses radio waves, Li-Fi operates in the visible light spectrum.
An LED light bulb operates such that when an electrical current is applied to it, a stream of photons is emitted from the bulb. This is what the human eye perceives as ‘light’. Additionally, LED light bulbs are semiconductor (SC) devices. One great property of SC devices is that the intensity of light being emitted can be altered at extremely high speeds, without the human eye recognizing the change. Li-Fi technology takes advantage of this: data is fed into the LED light bulb and is received on the other side by a photo-detector, which detects certain changes in intensity and interprets it as a data stream. The received data can then be used by us, the end user, to access content on the internet.
Potential uses of Li-Fi:
Now that we have discussed how Li-Fi works, what exactly is the point of this technology? Well, in just one sentence, Li-Fi will be used where other forms of communication signals cannot be used. Here are a few uses, some of which are already being implemented on smaller scales:
- Li-Fi enabled lighting on aircrafts
Li-Fi on planes would ensure safe, reliable connection between control towers and the pilots, even during storms and when the plane has to go through isolated locations. Additionally, internet connections for passengers will be more common, as extra router would not be required.
- Li-Fi at homes and offices
It is predicted that in the near future homes and office buildings will be highly dependent on Li-Fi. Compared to Wi-Fi, Li-Fi is considered to be much more secure as light waves cannot penetrate through walls (and other opaque objects). Thus the signals won’t be hacked from remote locations.