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How LiFi Works, LiFi vs WiFi, and LiFi Products

Januaris is a professional tech writer and blogger. He blogs about ecommerce, hardware and software fixes, video games, and product reviews.

In case you didn’t know, LiFi is a high-speed and fully-networked wireless technology under development. If it becomes a success, WiFi could become a thing of the past. The four letters stand for Light Fidelity and the technology itself is a visible light communications (VLC) system claimed to be 100 times faster than WiFi. Most wireless technology enthusiasts are calling it a super-fast alternative to WiFi.

LiFi Technology

LiFi Technology

But What Exactly Is LiFi?

LiFi is a bidirectional communication system that uses regular LED light bulbs to facilitate data transfer. Invented by Professor Harald Haas, the system uses light bulbs as wireless routers and can have speeds of up to 224 Gbps. The term LIFI was devised by the same professor who lectures at the University of Edinburgh and runs the pureLiFi company.

LiFi, which is also a subset of optical wireless communication technology, is being implemented by Velmenni. The Estonian startup showcased the technology at the Slush 100 startup competition held in Helsinki where it emerged a finalist. The company is doing pilot projects within different industrial environments and offices in Tallinn.

In addition to using visible light, the technology can work with infrared or near-ultraviolet. Since light cannot pass through walls, the wireless network will allow for greater security and eliminate the problem of interference between devices. The technology is also expected to do away with the bandwidth limitations of WiFi and cellular networks.

LiFi Internet

LiFi Internet

How Does LiFi Work?

As mentioned earlier, the technology uses visible light to transmit data which is a pretty simple principle. For it work, there must be a LiFi bulb fitted with a processing unit (and acting like a router) and a device equipped with a photodiode that can receive light signals. The processing unit is for converting data into a content that can be streamed.

A LED bulb (acting like a semiconductor light source) gives out extremely high rates of light output which is converted into electrical signal by the photo-detector. The conversion process is facilitated by changes of light intensity and modulation of light signals. The changes of light intensity include dipping and dimming of the light. The modulation of light signal cannot be noticed by human eye, but it involves up and down motion of the signals.

The electrical signal is then converted into a stream of binary data (LiFi internet) consisting of web, audio, video, and application information. This data can be accessed with the help of an internet-enabled device.

LiFi Network

LiFi Network

LiFi vs WiFi: Difference Between LiFi and WiFi

LiFiWiFi

It transmits data using light supplied by LED LiFi bulbs.

It transmits data using radio waves emitted by a WiFi router.

Similar to radio frequency waves, it does not have any interference issues.

It does have interference issues. The signal is usually interrupted by nearby access points or routers.

IrDA compliant. The IrDA deals with wireless infrared communications. It provides specifications for a set of protocols that guide these forms of communications.

WLAN 802 compliant. The WLAN 802 offers media access controls and physical layer specifications that guide implementation of wireless local area network.

It is more secure. The VL signal is blocked by walls which means that the network is contained inside a room. This provides a more secure data transfer.

It is less secure. the RF signal cannot be blocked by walls which means that unauthorized people can access the network creating an insecure data transfer. Some techniques are needed to secure the network.

Data transfer speed is higher. The speed can go up to 224 Gbps.

Data transfer is lower. Operates at 150 Mbps, but some sophisticated systems can offer maximum speeds of 2 Mbps.

Frequency of operation is higher. It can operate at a frequency 10 thousand times that of the radio.

Frequency of operation is lower. Operates between 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz.

Coverage distance is smaller. It can cover an area of 10 meter diameter.

Coverage distance is larger. It can cover an area of diameter 32 meters.

System components include an LED bulb, a lamp driver and a photo detector device.

System components include a router and other user devices needed for a complete system.

LIFI Products, Stock, and Price

There are already LiFi-enabled products, such as LiFlame Ceiling Unit and LiFrame Desktop Unit, but more sophisticated products are needed. The ceiling unit is used to connect to an LED light while the Desktop Unit is used to connect to a device via USB. The two units provide light and connectivity and are available in limited stock and at a high price. The technology is expected to be cheaper with the manufacture of more products.

PureLiFi is partnering with Lucibel, a French lighting company, to make more sophisticated products. Apple is also likely to build LiFi-enabled devices in the near future. According to some reports, the tech giant may include LiFi capabilities in their iPhones. There is evidence that the iOS 9.1 code has a reference to the VLC system.

Conclusion

LiFi will not necessarily come to replace WiFi, but to complement it and offer more benefits when it comes to the internet access. The VLC technology will be adopted by those who need higher data transfer speeds and securer network. The technology consumes less power, so those who need to save on energy will also go for it.

If the technology gets absorbed well, businesses will definitely benefit a lot from it. Information will be acquired and shared in a very short period of time, improving the efficiency of running businesses. Due to the secure nature of the network, more businesses will be willing to use it.

The use of infrared light could tremendously improve the communication system. Some researchers believe that if an infrared light is used in a photo detector that has a mobile device connected on to it, the device can send data back to the light source creating an uplink. Other researchers are working to see if a multicolored RGB light could be used in the system to create a wider range of signals.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2016 Januaris Saint Fores