A group of researchers in Estonia have managed to make an information transfer method utilising light, successfully implementing it into a corporation as a beta test program. Light Fidelity, or Li-Fi as it's known, offers speeds in excess of 100x Wi-Fi. All of the sudden it's getting a huge amount of attention, but does it actually warrant it?
Li-Fi is a method of information transfer using LED bulbs, photo diodes and amplified signals. A method which has zero interference with radio waves and so forth, providing a cleaner, more efficient signal.
Research on Li-Fi has been under way since 2011 and at that time it was just in the planning stages. Estonian start-up, Velmenni, is the centre of attention when it comes to Li-Fi, which can produce transfer speeds as fast as 224 Gbps during lab testing. During real-world testing it's expected to deliver performance in the region of 1 Gbps. On paper it's an impressive feat no doubt, but once we explore the tech in more detail, we find that it might not be all it's cracked up to be.
Velmenni is using LED Bulbs, photo diodes and MATLAB, plus Simulink programming, which is taught to all students studying Electrical and Telecommunication Engineering. Transfer of data is done through these LED bulbs, however they are susceptible to pollution which can slow down the transfer rate considerably. In addition, light can't penetrate through walls, so you will have to put these bulbs everywhere in the house and keep them on all the time if you are moving about. This shows that the method could be very limited in its application, unless you want your house lit up like a Christmas tree all year round.
However, this also presents an advantage of security. No one outside can gain access to your network. This is fairly easy to achieve on bog-standard Wi-Fi unless you have a strong password. Another benefit of Wi-Fi is in its name - it's wireless. With Li-Fi you're going to end up with more wires, not less, which begs the question, why not just set-up an Ethernet network? Say you are on a desktop, then you just have to put one bulb on top of the PC and you are good to go, provided the bulb is in direct line of the LED lamp 'router'. However if you are on a smartphone and sitting somewhere else, then you might as well activate your family data plan.
A similar concept emerged at the start of this year in a £1.5 million project known as Pure Li-Fi, which demonstrates the similar concept of visible light communication. The following picture showcases the differences between data transfer methods between 3G/4G/LTE[Long Term Evolution], Wi-Fi and Li-Fi:
This method, yet again, remains only effective at short range. If you take a look at the applications of this concept here, you will find some extremely interesting ideas, such as car-to-car communication using headlights, or street lights which can be used to provide hotspots and much more.
My prediction is if Li-Fi does signal the future standard of internet, it still needs at least five to seven years to mature and be properly implemented on a corporate and consumer level.
Li-Fi also intends to combat Cellular Data Networks, which, in my opinion, is impossible. The guys at the back end of the carriers would never allow something to replace their standards and destroy their revenue streams, despite the fact that the telecom sector is hurtling towards a potential death.
But that's enough from me, I want to hear you GD'ers. Do you think Li-Fi is the future standard for the internet? Drop your thoughts in the comments section below!