Li-Fi smart light bulbs will be available to buy in the high street within the next few years, according to PureLiFi’s director of product marketing.
Speaking at the DTG Summit, Nikola Serafimovski told Recombu that once various hurdles had been cleared, upgrading your home with smart bulbs would be as easy as picking up a set from B&Q and screwing them in.
Work with the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), the body which defines WiFi standards, needs to happen to ensure that the kit you end up buying will be as universal as WiFi devices are today.
The idea behind Li-Fi is that sensors embedded in a variety of devices can send and receive data via LED light bulbs connected to a home network. Previous tests with Li-Fi bulbs have seen 150Mbps and 10Gbps data streams transmitted between devices. Serafimovski said that once Li-Fi products arrive in the home they will be hugely disruptive.
“We see Li-Fi as a solution to the spectrum crunch. The demand for wireless data needs a way of being addressed. Li-Fi operates in a free unlicensed spectrum that’s not dangerous, therefore it can compliment WiFi and other cellular communications. We don’t see Li-Fi as a replacement to WiFi, rather something that sits alongside it.”
The idea is that when you get home your phone will automatically connect to your wireless network as usual. When you walk into a room with a Li-Fi bulb switched on, your device will automatically connect to that.
In April, PureLiFi’s partner, the University of Edinburgh successfully demonstrated 1.1Gbps transmissions over 10 meters using less than 0.5W of power, proving that even with dimmed lights, Li-Fi can maintain high data rates.
Cheap Li-Fi kits are rolling off the factory lines in China right now and Professor Harald Haas, chief scientific officer and co-founder of Li-Fi, expects that standard LED lights available now might be able to be retrofitted.
The ‘Li-1st’ hardware PureLiFi had on display at the DTG Summit, obviously too big to fit in any phone (well maybe the Sony Xperia Z Ultra…), is designed to be used in environments like schools and hospitals.
PureLiFi’s customers to date include a mystery US healthcare insurance company, which Serafimovski refused to name, with a growing number of customers from various market verticals.
Serafimovski said that eventually sensors will be small enough to be embedded in phones, tablets, laptops and connected TVs. Japanese company Outstanding Technology has produced a light receiver that plugs into the headphone jack of phones and tablets.
The Outstanding Technology peripherals however are only receivers – Serafimovski said that Li-Fi sensors in phones will be able to send and receive data in the future.