Li-Fi: Data by Light

Updated: Feb 1, 2019

Having recently attended Lux Live 2016 at the ExCeL centre in London at the end of November with the team, we were enlightened with how far lighting technology has come. 


The conference really showcased the amazing lighting companies and their products.  At NOVO, we all have different opinions of what was our favourite.


The technology that stood out for us the most was Li-Fi.  There was a live demonstration of the technology.  The first ever demonstration happened back in 2011.  You can read about the Lux Live demonstration here.


What is Li-Fi?


Li-Fi or Light Fidelity is a bi-directional, high-speed, and fully networked wireless communication technology similar to Wi-Fi.  Basically, it’s a way of transmitting data to devices wirelessly using visible light.  The data is in the light beams.  Data is sent by LEDs that pulse at a high frequency.  LiFi signals are modulated at such a fast rate that the eye cannot perceive the modulation or “flicker”.


What are the Benefits?


Li-Fi has the potential to enable LED light in an office, home, street, and beyond to transmit data.  This, for example, could make hot-desking simple as information could be sent through to the light source where the person is sat.  Other lights could be dimmed or turned off, saving energy.  Wi-Fi can be affected by the number of users and limited by the amount of data it can transmit.  In theory, Li-Fi offers significantly more access points (each light) and therefore the number of users is not a significant problem.  LiFi also has the capacity to open up thousands of additional data highways as it uses an unutilised portion of the electromagnetic spectrum which results in significantly higher speeds and data density.  Li-Fi also offers enhanced security as light cannot travel through walls and therefore the wireless data can be physically contained, making it significantly more difficult to intercept the wireless signal.  Li-Fi could also be used in areas where it wouldn’t be possible to use Wi-Fi.  Places where a radio signal could affect sensitive equipment, such as hospitals or in aircraft.  Currently, Wi-Fi is near to having a spectrum crisis because it is close to full capacity.  Whereas Li-Fi has almost no limitations, as the visible spectrum is 10,000 times larger than the entire radio frequency.


Conclusion


Currently, the technology on offer allows for a wireless experience like other RF technologies such as WiFi, using the LiFi-X dongle. However, the direction for Li-Fi is integration into everyone’s mobile devices. That requires investment into the technology and miniaturisation. This is something pureLiFi is currently working on and pureLiFi has maintained leadership in the development of Li-Fi since Professor Harald Haas introduced the concept back in 2011 at his Ted Global Talk.


Below is an image that shows the leaps that pureLiFi has made in the last year with regards to miniaturisation.  The product on the left is Li-Flame (Released in 2015) and the one on the right is LiFi-X (released in 2016) which is 14 times smaller.  Progress is being made in miniaturisation, and its being made quickly.


Globally, the next area of innovation is the smart city.  Currently, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Singapore are making great strides in this area, with more cities following suit.  A big part of the smart city roll out is the inclusion of smart lighting and the use of new technology such as Power over Ethernet (POE). Due to this, it will allow for the swift deployment of LiFi as it allows for the repurposing of light for data with minimal additional requirements.  pureLiFi is already experiencing this in the commercial space.  LiFi is currently being used in a Smart Building in Paris called Sogeprom.


Obviously, this is currently emerging technology.  It will continue to improve and become more accessible.

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NOVO Integration Ltd are a Leeds-based team of dedicated M&E consultants offering low-carbon, forward-thinking building services solutions across all sectors. 

Experts in the efficient and compliant design of all MEP systems within a building, we are also accredited to provide sustainability certification and consultancy from RIBA Stage 0 to 7. 

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