Wifi, internet, light
Harald Haas, University of Edinburgh
Li-Fi, or light fidelity, refers to 5G visible light communication systems using light from light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as a medium to deliver networked, mobile, high-speed communication in a similar manner as Wi-Fi. Li-Fi could lead to the Internet of Things, which is everything electronic being connected to the internet, with the LED lights on the electronics being used as internet access points.
Visible light communications (VLC) signals work by switching bulbs on and off within nanoseconds, which is too quickly to be noticed by the human eye. Although Li-Fi bulbs would have to be kept on to transmit data, the bulbs could be dimmed to the point that they were not visible to humans and yet still functional. The light waves cannot penetrate walls which makes a much shorter range, though more secure from hacking, relative to Wi-Fi. Direct line of sight isn‘t necessary for Li-Fi to transmit signal and light reflected off of the walls can achieve 70 Mbps.
Li-Fi has the advantage of being able to be used in electromagnetic sensitive areas such as in aircraft cabins, hospitals and nuclear power plants without causing electromagnetic interference. Both Wi-Fi and Li-Fi transmit data over the electromagnetic spectrum, but whereas Wi-Fi utilises radio waves, Li-Fi uses visible light. While the US Federal Communications Commission has warned of a potential spectrum crisis because Wi-Fi is close to full capacity, Li-Fi has almost no limitations on capacity. The visible light spectrum is 10,000 times larger than the entire radio frequency spectrum. Researchers have reached data rates of over 10 Gbps, which is more than 250 times faster than superfast broadband. Li-Fi is expected to be ten times cheaper and more environmentally friendly than Wi-Fi. Short range, low reliability and high installation costs are the potential downsides.