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Li-fi: the new wireless technology

Telecommunications are constantly innovating to offer increasingly powerful and effective solutions for users, as well as for the tools necessary for their management. One of those new technologies that have emerged is the Li-fi (Light Fidelity) technology. This is the new wireless technology for telecommunications. It is fast and low cost, which transmits data in a bidirectional way faster than the well-known Wifi technology and that is postulated as his alternative.

new wireless technology
Li-fi is the next generation communication technology (Image credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)

This new wireless technology was introduced in 2011 by the German engineer Harald Haas during the TED Conference on communications in different areas where it caused great expectations and has not stopped doing so since then.

What is Li-fi technology?

Li-fi technology uses visible or near-ultraviolet (UV) and near-infrared (NIR) light of the electromagnetic (non-radiofrequency) spectrum to become an optical wireless communication, with a greater capacity to transport information, running as the solution for Current bandwidth limitations. In fact, it uses LED technology (with a great boom for lighting in homes, businesses, and public places) to transmit the information to any device or gadget perceptible to the LED light or in its area of ​​incidence, through changes in the intensity of the light.

Reaching speeds of 224 Gigabits per second (Gbps), 100 times higher than the Wifi speed, although it is expected that at a commercial level 10 Gbps (Gigabytes per second) will be reached. Therefore, installing a modulator to an LED bulb can give light and also transmit data. To do this, the receivers must have the appropriate technology (a photodiode receiver) to decode the light signal converting it into information.

Since its presentation in 2011, various technology centers worldwide (Russia, the United States, Israel or China) are working on its development and specific applications. Although for the moment, the few solutions that have been presented for the internet connection have too many accessories. It is expected that soon they will see the light of smaller accessories that will definitely make Li-fi technology a strong competitor for Wifi. The first country to market this technology has been Mexico, which, with its company Sisoft, has done since the beginning of this year. It commercializes luminaires with transmitter and receiver Li-fi for the transmission of internet, audio, and video.

Specialists estimate that the objectives of 50,000 million connected will be achieved in 2020, where Li-fi is seen as a good solution to the already saturated radio communication networks.

Many multinational companies such as Siemens and Apple are very interested in this technology and are working to be able to incorporate it as soon as possible to their star products. This supposes a great reinforcement for the impulse of this technology that is inevitable to be installed in the daily activities.

Applications of the new wireless technology

Why can we use this information transmission technology so fast? Although there is still much to evolve and innovate within this telecommunications technology, and that initially it is proposed as a complement to Wifi for local environments, numerous applications are foreseen in different fields such as the automotive, industry and, of course, in everyday life and home, without forgetting business activities where Li-fi technology can play a key role in the marketing and communication strategies of companies.

  • Transmission of huge amounts of information between computers, gadgets and multimedia devices. The new wireless technology stands out especially interesting for the Live Streaming transmission, so you can watch live events in HD quality. Experimentally it is already being carried out in different local social networks.
  • Transmission of information over short distances, as currently offered by NFC technology to open locks securely without the need for a key or access card, make payments, personal identification with mobile phones.
  • In the industry, it will allow connecting machines, tools and devices to each other to manage and improve production processes based on decisions made by the human team that manages it or even by a central computer. Could it lead to the 4th industrial revolution?
  • In hospitals, eliminating the wiring currently needed by certain devices that are used there.
  • Internet of things, as it facilitates the internet connection of household appliances.
  • Automotive Communication between autonomous cars through its LED headlights is planned, in addition to its communication of environmental elements such as street lamps, traffic signs, parking or the same roads, which will have Li-fi transmitters to transmit information in real-time to the vehicles passing by.
  • Very useful for underground parking where mobile network coverage is practically nil.
  • Marketing. Connection to the network of shops accessing information that the company wants to put at our disposals such as catalogs, promotions, and offers.

Surely in the future, there will be many other applications in these and many other areas that right now we are not even able to imagine we are now living its first steps in the real world and not only in laboratories.

Advantages of Li-fi technology over Wi-Fi

The most named advantage of the new wireless technology is its speed. As we have said, it can be 100 times higher than the speed of Wifi.

  • Transmission capacity Due to the broad spectrum of visible light (from 400 to 800THz), a bandwidth 10,000 times greater than current radio communications is obtained.
  • Absence of interference in communication with other systems, so it is especially interesting for sensitive applications such as hospitals, airplanes, among others.
  • Easy control of your coverage, allowing the security of the home network. Due to its operating principle, the scope of the Li-fi network is limited to the distance covered by the light beam of the LED bulbs that we have installed, which makes it difficult for the third-party intrusion.
  • The new wireless technology it uses is present everywhere. In homes, businesses and even on the street there are light bulbs that currently only illuminating. Any bulb can turn into a luminous router easily, with the installation of a simple emitter.
  • Energy efficiency, given the low energy consumption of its emitting sources, LED lamps which make it very appropriate.
Li-fi wireless communication technology
Smart Urban Communication Network with Li-fi (Image credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)

Disadvantages of Li-fi technology versus Wi-Fi

Although it seems the new wireless technology has come to stay and that has numerous advantages over Wi-Fi technology, we must not forget that it currently has a number of drawbacks. It seems obvious that companies and research centers around the world are working to reduce, and even eliminate these inconveniences and do so in the shortest possible time.

  • The emission range is reduced, limited to a few meters (where the emitter light arrives). In addition, the coverage is cut when an object hinders the reception of light by the receiving device. Nor does it pass through walls and walls, which can sometimes be a problem, although in others it is a great advantage as we have seen before.
  • It does not work under direct sunlight, as it cancels the visibility of the light beams of the bulbs. Obviously it does not work with the light off, because then the transmitter does not work (the bulb itself).
  • Starting, the price is another inconvenience at least until the technology is established and allows a significant reduction in costs, becoming an advantage of Li-fi technology. Currently, the Mexican company Sisoft sells luminaries between 500 and 8,000 Mexican pesos (equivalent to about 25,400 euros).
  • It only works with those devices that have the appropriate technology receivers to be able to receive the information that the sender sends.
  • Currently, the millions of devices on the market such as smartphones, computers, TVs, do not have Li-fi technology for their connectivity, so that in order to use this technology, the gradual change of devices that allow communication with this technology so that its use is extended in a massive way.
  • In addition, the size of the auxiliary components to be installed in the receiving objects is too large, making it unfeasible for installation on mobile phones and other small devices. One of the current challenges for the telecommunications industry is to get small components to use this technology.

Although currently, it’s a long way to go to Li-fi technology, all the evidence and conclusions suggest that we are facing a new technological revolution in telecommunications and that obviously will change the way of conceiving communications, they will become more communication near and next and also customized according to the place where you are.

We must be very attentive to the advances that this technology is providing, to take advantage of it and be aware of how life will change us, our customs and routines that now seem immovable.

Are you ready for the new wireless technology in telecommunications? Surely you are wishing that some of the indicated solutions or some other that you can think of is already available to enjoy them.

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