Li-Fi Internet Technology 100 Times Faster Than Wi-Fi

26/11/2015 8:06 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Your crummy broadband connection struggling to stream your latest Netflix binge-watch obsession? Can't keep up with the 50+ tabs you've got open on your browser? Just unable to handle the pressure of your weekly Skype date with overseas mates?

Wi-Fi is so 2012. Say hello to your new best friend, Li-Fi -- operating at a brain-bending speed 100 times faster than your regular wireless connection, able to download an entire high-definition movie in seconds... and it's all thanks to a lightbulb.

Researchers from New Delhi-listed company Velmenni announce in November they had tested new internet technology in Tallinn, Estonia, which could transmit information at a lightning fast speed of one gigabyte per second. The tech company claimed a breakthrough in the field of visible light communication (VLC), titled Velmenni Jugnu, could shatter existing Wi-Fi limitations.

What Is VLC?

VLC is exactly what it sounds like -- using light as a method of delivering communication. Traditional internet uses radio frequencies to transmit information. VLC uses light. VLC has been around for a while, but Li-Fi as a concept came into being around 2011, using an LED light that blinks at high-speed to transmit data in binary form -- a sort of Morse Code for the internet age.

"Jugnu is the next generation of smart LED bulbs that can transfer data through visible light. We are implementing the Li-Fi technology in our new range of LED bulbs. It refers to the wireless communication system which uses light as a medium of transport instead of traditional radio frequencies," Velmenni said on their website.

"Although the use of light in order to transmit data can be limited in comparison to radio waves, there is a great amount of possibilities that can be developed with the proper use of this technology."

There's a really good TED talk from Harold Haas you can watch that explains Li-Fi in more detail, where Haas posits a future where every LED light could become an information transmitter. Who is Harold Haas, you might ask? Only the guy who is widely accepted to have invented the concept of Li-Fi back in 2011.

While the field tests of Velmenni's technology clock in around one gigabyte per second, lab tests have shown Li-Fi could reach speeds of 3.5 gigabytes a second.

What's the catch?

There's a few. Li-Fi, while many magnitudes faster than current Wi-Fi, is limited because it works on light, not radio waves. This means, as Science Alert reports, the information can't travel through walls -- great news if you want to keep your communications secure inside your house (or stop neighbours piggy-backing off your connection), bad news if you want to stream Game of Thrones in your bedroom.

Also, researchers say that despite the crazy speeds, Li-Fi probably won't completely replace Wi-Fi. It is more likely to work alongside existing technology, meaning you shouldn't throw out your router just yet.

haroldhaas

Harold Haas during his TED talk, with an LED bulb

What now?

Well, don't go rushing out to stock up on LED bulbs just yet. The Estonia trials are still just that -- trials -- with Velmenni admitting widespread commercial uptake of the technology is not coming any time in the near future.

"We are doing a few pilot projects within different industries where we can utilise the VLC technology," Deepak Solanki, Velmenni's CEO, told IBTimes UK.

"Currently we have designed a smart lighting solution for an industrial environment where the data communication is done through light. We are also doing a pilot project with a private client where we are setting up a Li-Fi network to access the internet in their office space."

Solanki also said the infrastructure needed to support a Li-Fi system isn't widespread enough. At least, not yet. In his TED talk, Haas said the key to Li-Fi spreading far and wide was to attach small microchips to as many LED lights as possible, turning them into transmitters.

"All we need to do is fit a small microchip to every potential illumination device and this would then combine two basic functionalities: illumination and wireless data transmission," Haas said.

"In the future we will not only have 14 billion light bulbs, we may have 14 billion Li-Fis deployed worldwide for a cleaner, greener and even brighter future."

Solanki told IBTimes a similar thing.

"It is very difficult to create a whole new infrastructure for Li-Fi so somehow we need integrate our system with the current system," he said.

This story was originally published on November 26, 2015.

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