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LiFi, light-based WiFi, is coming to transmit data through your home lights

LiFi, an emerging technology that could turn standard light fittings into WiFi points, has taken a step closer to beaming down in your home. 

PureVLC has sold its first LiFi device to a US healthcare firm. In doing so, the company has come up with a snappier name for the technology previous referred to as VLC – Visible Light Communication – or optical WiFi. In fact, PureVLC likes the name so much, it’s going to rebrand itself as PureLiFi next month.

Co-founder Professor Harald Haas thinks that it will transform domestic data networks. LEDs installed in light fittings will revolutionise how we transmit data around hospitals, schools and our homes, letting us connect devices that might not be best served by WiFi. 

LiFi, light-based WiFi, is coming to transmit data through your home lights
Your future WiFi hotspot: An LED light fitting

Speaking to the Financial Times, Prof Haas said: “LEDs are electronic circuits… and they bring entirely new opportunities… In the next 10 years we are setting out an industry that could have a huge impact.”

Separate tests carried out at the National Taipei University, Taiwan, has shown that beams of light similar to those generated by laser pens, can transmit data at rates of 500Mbps over distances of 10 meters. 

In large environments with thick walls like hospitals and schools, LiFi could provide a more direct method of communication. As LiFi requires line of sight for projectors and photosensitive receptors to communicate with each other, it’d be better suited to big, open areas with high ceilings than homes. 

We’ve seen Commulight experimenting with a LiFi system which the Japanese company claims will also work underwater. Commulight has developed a series of mobile peripherals which have been tested on iPhones and iPads. Future phones could come with LiFi units built in alongside traditional WiFi and Bluetooth aerials. 

Prof Haas expects that LED light fittings could be retrofitted and turned into ad-hoc LiFi networks, so set up costs would be negligible. In this sense, it’s similar to how Powerline products leverage a home’s wiring to transmit data. 

Ofcom is predicting an impending data crunch that threatens to choke radio bandwidth, which is why its keen on getting things ready for a 5G auction now. As well as freeing up more airwaves so we can have more timeshift channels from the BBC, we will need to look at using things like LiFi to complement cellular and WiFi networks. 

Image: ajmxico/Flickr


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