We’ve been watching LiFi (Lightning-Fi) since it’s invention in 2011 by Harald Haas of the University of Edinburgh. If you haven’t heard of it before you can check out Haas’ introduction in his TedTALK below…
This week news broke that Estonian start-up Velmenni are trialling LiFi technology in offices, and we think its got great potential for in home networks and avoiding the usual interference we can sometimes get from neighbours Wifi.
In Velmenni’s test LiFi has seen data sent at speeds of up to 1GBps, that’s pretty much 100 times faster than most current residential WiFi connections and about five times faster than Virgin Media Vivid 200Mbs, our Next Generation Fibre Optic broadband. In 2011 my team at Virgin Media achieved 1.5Gbps as we tested out our current DOCIS set up. But Haas believes LiFi could be pushed to a staggering 224Gbs - enough to download 18 movies in a single second.
So, how does it work?
Incredibly, it’s pretty simple. LED’s flicker as current is passed through them, this happens at a rate far faster than the human eye can detect.
By applying a rule to whether the light is on or off, ie. On = 1 off = 0 means data can be sent as digital information similar to binary and translated by compatible devices. Essentially, just the same as any network works when you get down to the basics.
The main difference is that LiFi being VLC (visible light communication) uses light, we currently use radio waves. The visible light spectrum is far broader than that of the radio frequency spectrum and so there’s far greater capacity for sending and receiving data.
In order to make this happen a small microchip would need to be fitted to every potential illumination device.
There is a potential drawback in that light obviously doesn’t travel through walls, where as radio does. This is something LiFi will need to tackle in order avoid dropouts room to room, though funnily enough it has it's benefits in terms of security and throughput.
Whilst we doubt that LiFi will be able to contend with WiFi infrastructure in the next ten years the potential that LiFi offers is promising and the two may work together much sooner than that.