New LED “Li-Fi” is 100 times faster than Wi-Fi
Light Fidelity (Li-Fi ) is a bidirectional, high speed and fully networked wireless communication technology similar to Wi-Fi.
Expect to hear a whole lot more about Li-Fi - a wireless technology that transmits high-speed data using visible light communication (VLC) - in the coming months. With scientists achieving speeds of 224 gigabits per second in the lab using Li-Fi earlier 2015, the potential for this technology to change everything about the way we use the Internet is huge.
And now, scientists have taken Li-Fi out of the lab for the first time, trialling it in offices and industrial environments in Tallinn, Estonia, reporting that they can achieve data transmission at 1 GB per second - that's 100 times faster than current average Wi-Fi speeds.
You may soon be able to connect to the internet nothing more than a simple lamp. Li-Fi, or “light fidelity”, is a new wireless technology that just premiered at the Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile tech fair – in Barcelona. French start-up Oledcomm says the new technology is 100 times faster than conventional Wi-Fi.
So how does this new light-based system work? It all hinges on the unique properties of LED lamps. Though you’ve probably never noticed it, the bulbs flicker on and off thousands of times a second, a rate imperceptible to the human eye but one that generates a frequency readable by machines. This frequency is incredibly fast, especially compared to the radio waves used for conventional wireless internet.
Laboratory tests have found that Li-Fi can transmit information at almost unbelievable speeds, over 200 gigabytes per second. That’s fast enough to download 23 DVDs’ worth of information in the literal blink of an eye.
Despite the speed, there are some drawbacks to this new technology. For one thing, the light has to be visible for the signal to work, so it can’t pass through walls the way Wi-Fi can. You also need to place your device directly in the light, which limits the physical space where it’s effective. There are, however, some advantages to the limited scope of the signal. Unlike Wi-Fi, which can potentially broadcast your information far and wide, Li-Fi signals can be directed at a single user, which in turn helps keep their activity more private. And because it’s easy to restrict, it could be used in locations like hospitals or schools.
So when will you be able to try Li-Fi for yourself? Right now, it’s being used in French museums and shopping malls, and it has been tested in public settings in Belgium, Estonia, and India. If you don’t live in one of those countries, for now you’re probably out of luck. Companies like Philips and Apple have already expressed an interest in the technology, and there are rumors it may be included in the iPhone 7.