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“Excuse me, do you have Wi-Fi?”

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It seems to be the most common question posed in today’s society. We’ve become accustomed to wanting this type of technology at our fingertips in every situation, whether we’re working on-the-go, browsing the Internet whenever or wherever we please, or streaming movies, TV shows, and random videos.

But have you heard of Li-Fi?

It’s a wireless technology that transmits high-speed data using visible light communication (VLC), and it’s about to hit it big in the coming months.

Scientists have made it possible to achieve speeds of 224 gigabits per second in the lab using Li-Fi earlier this year, and the potential technology could forever change the way we view and use the Internet.

Now, for the first time, scientists have taken this envelope-pushing technology out of the lab, trialling it in offices and industrial environments in Tallinn, Estonia. They’ve reported that they can reach data transmission at a whopping 1 GB per second, which is 100 times faster than current average Wi-Fi speeds.

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“We are doing a few pilot projects within different industries where we can utilise the VLC (visible light communication) technology,” explains Deepak Solanki, CEO of Estonian tech company Velmenni. “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.”

Harald Haas from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland created Li-Fi back in 2011 when he demonstrated for the first time that by flickering the light from a single LED, more data could be transmitted from a cellular tower.

Li-Fi uses VLC—a medium that uses visible light between 400 and 800 terahertz (THZ), and works similarly to an extremely advanced form of Morse code, with the flickering of the LED on and off resulting in extreme speeds that can be used to write and transmit things in binary code. But don’t worry—you won’t experience any distracting flickering lights while you work. These LEDs can be switched on and off at speeds imperceptible to the human eye.

As for the benefits of Li-Fi over Wi-Fi (other than the possibility of faster speeds), the system is much more secure, as light cannot be passed through walls, which also means there will be less interference between devices.

While Li-Fi will likely not completely replace Wi-Fi in the coming decades, research teams around the world are indeed developing devices to work with the technology. Haas and his team have even launched PureLiFi, which offers a plug-and-play application for secure wireless Internet access with a capacity of 11.5 MB per second.

If applications like this are proven successful, everyone could gain access to the Internet via LED light bulbs in their home.

“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 says. “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.”


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