Category Archives: Tools & Technology

Li-Fi

An emergent technology has the potential to deliver enormous bandwidth

As data transmission through radio waves approaches its limits, a new medium presents itself. Harald Haas at TED Talks a proposes a relatively simple and elegant solution, Li-Fi or Light Fidelity.

LEDData through LED

By fitting a regular LED bulb with a microchip, Haas was able to transmit wireless data with an LED light bulb and a sensor. By turning lights on and off at very high speeds the LED bulb can send out high bandwidth wireless data.  Data is converted into pulses of light which is directed at a light sensor that picks up minute changes in light intensity and duration.  This light signal is then converted back into data formats for output from a computer.

Haas says that the advantage of this medium of transmission is that, visible light has 10,000 times the spectrum of radio frequencies allowing faster data with far higher volumes in a single data stream. This medium can be made readily available anywhere that light bulbs can be found and the only infrastructure required are regular bulb sockets fitted with the modified LED lamp and the light sensor to read the data.   No other massive infrastructure need to be constructed to roll out this technology.  And since the rapid pulsing of the light is imperceptible to the human eye, Haas suggested that the LED lamp can also double as a light source.  One last advantage mentioned was that data can be secured given the fact that light can be contained within opaque walls.

Li-Fi has a unique advantage over radio frequency transmission

The most relevant application of this technology as Haas explains, lies mainly where conventional radio frequency (RF) transmission is considered hazardous as in petro-chemical plants, aircraft and hospitals. He also mentions its possible use in traffic control where data can be exchanged between cars and traffic lights to enhance road safety. He even goes so far as proposing to convert the 14 billion light bulbs in use today into 14 billion “Li-Fi’s” for a “cleaner, greener and brighter future”.

The demo only presented one way transmission of data and it did not mention how the data would be transmitted over vast distances. At this point we are left with more questions than answers.  But given the implications of such a promising technology it is only a matter of time before we find out the answers.

Watch the TED Video:

Harald Haas: Wireless data from every light bulb