Home / Blog / Fast as lightning! That would be Li-Fi.

Fast as lightning! That would be Li-Fi.

I’ve been hearing a lot about Li-Fi lately, which is getting plenty of hype in the tech press. And why wouldn’t it be getting hyped? It promises to be 100x faster than standard Wi-Fi speeds. Which would make it pretty darned fast. We’re talking instantaneous download of full-length videos here. (Or, as it said in the article I saw on Yahoo on this topic, speeds that are speedy enough to “download the equivalent of 23 DVDs in one second.” Not that I have the need to “download the equivalent of 23 DVDs in one second, but cool technology nonetheless.)

Just what is Li-Fi?

For starters, the “Li” stands for Light, as in Light Fidelity, based on Visible Light Communication (VLC), which uses visible light between 400 and 800 terahertz.

“The technology uses the frequencies generated by LED bulbs — which flicker on and off imperceptibly thousands of times a second — to beam information through the air, leading it to be dubbed the “digital equivalent of Morse Code”.”

Much of what’s been happening with Li-Fi occurred in labs, but it started coming into real-world settings in 2015, when testing occurred in some museums and malls in France, which is a hub spot for Li-Fi. It’s also been tested out in other countries – Belgium, Estonia, and India were named, and:

“Dutch medical equipment and lighting group Philips is reportedly interested in the technology and Apple may integrate it in its next smartphone, the iPhone7, due out at the end of the year, according to tech media.”

So Li-Fi will be getting here sooner rather than later.

Proponents of the technology point out that as the IoT expands – the predicted number of devices by 2020 that I’ve seen floating around is 50 billion – Wi-Fi will start running up against a depleted supply or radio wave spectrums.

On the downside, Li-Fi (unlike Superman’s vision) cannot go through walls, which would mean, if you had it in your home, you’d need to be set up for it in every room where you wanted access. Devices would also have to be equipped with a dongle or some other type of add-on technology in order to work. This would up the cost, at least in the short term. If Li-Fi takes off, the technology to make it work would eventually become embedded.

So, of course, we’ll be working with it!

Despite the limitations, there are a number of areas where Li-Fi will be very useful right off the bat. For example: a hospital setting, given that it wouldn’t interfere with medical equipment. And because “Li-Fi can potentially be directed and beamed at a particular user”, it would be good for security and privacy.

For now, it’s mostly lab science, but this may be the year that Li-Fi starts to break through.

Let there be Li-Fi!


If you’d like to read more, I found that Science Alert, Hackaday, and Tech World had interesting pieces.