For millions of people, Wi-Fi has been a way of connecting to the internet in places where there are no wires. In the last decade it has been the leading technology when it comes to delivering high speed broadband connections.
However, recently a new way of transmitting data across the world has been created. It is called Li-Fi and it uses LED lights.
What is Li-Fi?
The term Li-Fi stands for Light Fidelity and was originally coined by Professor Harald Haas back in 2011. The technology utilises ordinary LED room lights to transmit data around the house.
Li-fi refers to the visible light communication (VLC) technology that enables high-speed, bi-directional and mobile communications to be delivered.
How does Li-Fi work compared to Wi-Fi?
- Wi-Fi uses traditional radio frequency (RF) signals in order to transmit data without using wires.
- With Wi-Fi you can connect several different computers at once, in different rooms or even in the garden, all without the need for extra phone lines or cables.
- Wi-Fi creates a network bubble in your home where you can receive broadband internet. This bubble is sometimes referred to as a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN).
- Using radio waves, much like satellite TV and mobile phones, the wireless transmitter receives the data from the internet from your broadband connection.
- This transmitter can also convert the information back into a radio signal and return it.
- In contrast, Li-Fi uses the visible light spectrum in which to transmit data.
- Li-Fi uses pre-existing LED light bulbs that require only an extra computer chip in order to become Li-Fi transmitting.
- Once the chip is installed, Li-Fi then uses binary information, strings of 1’s and 0’s, to transmit data. The easiest way to do this is by switching the LED light on (for 1) and off (for 0).
- Any light source can be used to transmit this kind of on and off data, but LED lights are by far the fastest.
- Light receivers then interpret the flickering from the LED’s and we have our information.
Advantages of using Li-Fi
Li-Fi is much faster than Wi-Fi- because visible light is 10,000 much denser than radio waves and as such, more information can be transmitted.
Li-Fi doesn’t interfere with radio communications so it can be used on flights.
With Wi-Fi routers, using multiple devices in one room can interfere with each other. However Li-Fi can use multiple lights in a room without interference.
As more devices connect with Wi-Fi it is predicted that these networks will not be able to cope with demand.
Li-Fi enables devices to use their in-built stand by LED lights to transmit data.
Wi-Fi can sometimes penetrate walls, which means personal and business security is at risk. Li-Fi can prevent security piggy-backing and offer more of a secure internet connection for government and security agencies.
Disadvantages of using Li-Fi
The developers of Li-Fi have a few hurdles to jump over before this technology is problem free.
It seems that smartphones and mobiles are proving to be tricky when it comes to Li-Fi, due to them moving around and not picking up the Li-Fi light signals.
This means that connecting to a mobile device will not, at the moment, be as reliable as using Wi-Fi, something the makers are going to have to tackle, with 53% of all access to the internet through a mobile device in the UK at least.
However, Li-Fi is in its early days, so how knows what other break throughs will come about in the near future?