Whatever Happened to Heavily Hyped Li-Fi Technology?

One of the many mysteries of the plot of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novel the Hound of the Baskervilles Includes mysterious lights that appear on the moor, a part of the forest on which Buskerville Hall is located. These lights are, in fact, coded messages of a man hiding on marshland, signaling to his sister in the manor house.

More than a century after that novel was written, and the concept of conveying information through light remains as fascinating as ever – albeit at a level that Sherlock Holmes may have struggled to overcome.

The technology under consideration is Li-Fi, a form of wireless communication that uses very fast pulses of light to transmit data between devices. Presented to the world by German physicist and Li-Fi pioneer Harald Haas during a 2011 TEDGloil talk, the technology’s sales pitch is compelling: imagine if a light bulb could be used as a wireless router is.

It has many advantages, but large is the data that can be used to transmit it. An initial demonstration by researchers at the Heinrich Hertz Institute in Berlin, Germany, using only a standard-numbered white-light LED, displayed data rates of over 500 megabytes per second. Since then things have grown significantly.

However, people are still waiting for Li-Fi so that its supporters of mainstream technology believe it should be.

shining light

At its most basic, Li-Fi works by turning on zeros and ones that classical computers turn on or off, in two light states. If an LED light is on, it is performing a digital broadcast. If it is closed, it is transmitting a digital zero. By switching these lights on and off very quickly, it is possible to send messages at a surprisingly fast pace, much like the characters the Hound of the Baskervilles Signed each other at night. Only a whole lot faster.

So fast, in fact, that technically a twinkling light appears, to the human eye, to be continuous. This is in the same way that the human eye does not detect a pause between the frames of a film while watching a projected film. This high speed does not prevent the Li-Fi light bulb from appearing flicker, however. Flickering at the speed they do, they also allow massive amounts of data to be transferred.

“[Li-Fi] Can use huge bandwidth across the optical spectrum, ”Harald Haas, president of communications at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, told . “It’s three orders of magnitude larger than the entire radio frequency spectrum, which means you can send and receive very of data. LiFi provides a larger data pipe than RF’s restricted data pipe. “

“Because unlike radio signals, light cannot penetrate through opaque objects such as walls and doors, Li-Fi can also be used to create more secure wireless systems.”

However, this is only one potential advantage of Li-Fi. Unlike radio, Haas also indicates that, with Li-Fi, the available spectrum that crosses it is irregular and free. He can allow the same spectrum to be used in every country without any limitations, leading to simple global standardization that can cut costs and complexity. In addition, it is flexible for electromagnetic interference (EMI), so that both RF and Li-Fi systems can be used in close proximity without interfering with each other. This would be particularly useful in dense urban environments where there are mobile devices requiring high-speed data connections, all interfering with each other. With the rise of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, this problem is only getting worse.

Because unlike radio signals, light cannot penetrate through opaque objects such as walls and doors, Li-Fi can also be used to create more secure computer systems. Finally, the decrease in antenna requirement means that it can be useful in scenarios such as chemical or nuclear power plants where a slight spark can lead to the possibility of an explosion.

Technical barriers

So why use weasel words like “,”, “maybe,”, “and classification of others”? Because, right now, Li-Fi is still not mainstream. A decade after it was first unveiled, it remains a work in progress. A twinkling light in your home is more likely to be a faulty connection than a hyperspeed data connection that lets you download a whole series of Netflix shows within a minute.

“The technical constraints are mainly in optical to electrical conversion efficiency,” Haas said. “This means that to fully exploit the available spectrum, we need advanced transmitter and receiver devices.”

Via Eric Piermont / AFP Getty Image

There are, it should be noted, one or two other possible pain points. Coverage is closer to 10 meters compared to 32 meters of regular Wi-Fi. It also, for obvious reasons, cannot be deployed in bright sunlight, although it can be baked into street lamps to provide nighttime public Wi-Fi, with lights. But Haas is confident that Li-Fi is, in fact, on the way. “I can see a world where Li-Fi is integrated into a smartphone with all other RF technologies,” he said.

He points to the significant progress Li-Fi has made over the last 20 years. In the early 2000s, data rates from white LEDs hovered around a solitary megabyte per second. Today, that number is closer to one gigabyte per second.

“In the past, LEDs were designed primarily to improve electrical to optical power conversion efficiency,” he said. “Now we see that LEDs are also designed to improve electrical bandwidth, which is a key parameter for achieving high speed data communication. There are also new white-light sources based on lasers that deliver 10Gbps. This is a factor of 10,000 improvement within the last 20 years. This trend will continue. “

Will it become mainstream technology?

Despite its failure to become a mainstream technology yet, Li-Fi, LaserDisk, Lossless Digital Audio Tape (DAT), or other vastly improved technologies do not fall into the gloomy spot of theirs (at least Less commonly in the eyes) without convincing the public that they were as great as they really were. Development continues and, if Haas has his way of choice, it is just a matter of waiting (no pun intended) to shine.

“Of course, it will be,” he said. “Li-Fi Will Become a mainstream technology. There is no doubt in my mind. I think people have to understand that this technology is fundamentally different from all existing wireless technologies. [That] This means that the ecosystem of this technology is still mature. It is evolving as we educate markets about the great benefits of this technology. It takes time to secure the broad support needed to build ecosystems and make Li-Fi mainstream. “

Li-Fi expert Reece Williams for website LiFi.co, said that they believe Li-Fi will have a definite role in the future. “whereas [it] Williams probably told , “Probably, will not completely replace Wi-Fi, it will be used as a complementary technology.” “Li-Fi And Wi-Fi can complement each other, and release the full potential of technologies such as the Internet of Things, and virtual reality and augmented reality. “

Now the rest of the world just needs to see the light.

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