- High-speed data transmission
- Energy efficiency
- Data Density
- Internet depends on a light source
- Affected by other light sources
The internet plays an important role in almost all of our day-to-day activities. It is very rare to find places without internet facilities these days. Moreover, if the internet stopped working someday, the entire world would be affected as even the basic government functionalities are dependent on the internet to function properly. For instance, almost all of us are aware of the google services outage that happened in the December of 2020. This outage affected so many companies as well as individuals across the globe. Imagine if the same happens to the whole of the internet.
Given the importance of the internet, its adoption rate keeps exponentially increasing. The internet also greatly contributes to the development of new technologies. One such new technology is Li-Fi which aims to complement Wi-Fi in providing internet connectivity.
What is Li-Fi technology?
Li-Fi (Light Fidelity) is one of the bidirectional wireless communication technologies like Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity). Li-Fi, the term coined by Harald Hass, a professor and director of the R&D center in the University of Edinburgh in 2011, uses infrared light or visible light to transmit data. Whereas, Wi-Fi uses radio waves to transmit signals.
This technology is majorly aimed at solving two purposes namely to act as a light source in houses and buildings and also provide internet connectivity. Rather than using fiber optic cables as a medium to transfer light, a common household LED can be used to solve this purpose.
Li-Fi is a far more advanced technology than compared with the currently existing wireless networks today. While Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G technologies have drawbacks like limited capacity and limitations in the number of users that affect their performance, Li-Fi is found to be much faster with a wider bandwidth.
At present, the maximum rate of data transmission of Li-Fi is found to be 224 Gbps which is a hundred times faster than Wi-Fi which has a maximum data transmission rate of 5 Gbps.
The current development stage of Li-Fi technology
The Li-Fi technology is in its early deployment stages and is still undergoing developments to improve its functionality in all possible aspects. This technology is being tested in office environments. The aeronautical industry is also working on implementing this technology in commercial airplanes. After successful tests and implementations, this technology will reach the market to be commercialized within the next few years.
Market growth of Li-Fi
The global market of Li-Fi technology is predicted to reach $35.82 billion by 2028 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 71.2% between 2018 and 2028.
It is expected that the increased demand for technology that could enable faster data transmission will contribute majorly to the growth of Li-Fi technology. The Asia-Pacific region will be leading in terms of adoption of this technology in 2028 by surpassing Europe which was leading in 2017.
How is Li-Fi better than Wi-Fi?
Provided that most of the modern technologies solely depend on the internet to function effectively, it is essential to come up with alternative ways to eliminate the limitations of Wi-Fi. The most common limitations of Wi-Fi include limited coverage area, security concerns over connectivity, restrictions due to frequency interference and network traffic.
Li-Fi can be used as an effective alternative to overcome the limitations of Wi-Fi networks because of the following advantages.
High-speed data transmission
As mentioned earlier, a comprehensive test conducted in a controlled environment by pureLiFi, a company created by professor Herald Hass, has resulted that Li-Fi could transfer data at the rate of 100 Gbps and in some cases, the results revealed the maximum rate of data transmission to be 224 Gbps. This high-speed data transmission is because the frequency spectrum of visible light is 1000 times larger than the 300 GHz frequency of the radiofrequency spectrum.
Data transmission using Wi-Fi requires two radios for the transmission of radio waves. For these radios to communicate with each other and separate the data from the noise from the same radio frequency used by various devices, a lot of energy is required. But with Li-Fi technology, all that is required is a LED light which can act as a medium to transfer data and the photodiode decodes the light signal. Additionally, LED lights are considered to be the least energy-consuming when compared to other forms of light bulbs. This makes Li-Fi very efficient than Wi-Fi networks.
As opposed to Wi-Fi where the network becomes slow with the increase in the number of users, Li-Fi is not confined to the limitations of network traffic. Each visible light communication (VLC) light source can deliver high speeds even with multiple numbers of users, hence Li-Fi can function well in dense environments especially if more VLC light sources are present.
Since the Li-Fi network depends on light for data transmission and light cannot pass through opaque objects, any form of interference from outside of the room where the VLC is present will be restricted. Though this decreases the coverage of the Li-Fi network, this can be used to provide security in areas where network hacking is more prevalent.
Various applications of Li-Fi technology
The applications of Li-Fi technology vary vastly with different use cases based on their key features like high-speed data transmission, energy efficiency and data density. Some of the applications of Li-Fi technology are mentioned below.
EMI sensitive environments
In airplanes, it is not possible to establish Wi-Fi connectivity as the radio signals used by Wi-Fi will interfere with EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) sensitive equipment on the plane. Flights enabled with Li-Fi can provide higher data rate connectivity for each passenger.
Augmented reality (AR)
In art galleries and museums, objects are illuminated with specific lightings for the purpose of increasing the ambiance. These lights can be Li-Fi enabled to provide information on the specific object when the users point their phones towards the light source.
Using radio waves for underwater communication is difficult as the radio waves are absorbed by the water. But light can penetrate into the water for larger distances and can be used for underwater communication between divers or divers and submarines.
In hazardous environments, the usage of electrical equipment is strictly prohibited. In this situation, Li-Fi can enable easy data transmission in these environments and can improve security measures in these areas. In hospitals, where the devices are EMI sensitive and vulnerable to security breaches, Li-Fi can enable the deployment of medical devices and medical records in a securely connected network.
Automobile headlights and tail lights are being replaced with LED these days. This enables the deployment of Li-Fi which could enable vehicle-to-vehicle communication. With the help of vehicle-to-vehicle communication, anti-collision systems can be developed where data on the driving conditions of the vehicle can be transferred between the vehicles.
Limitations of Li-Fi technology
As many advantages as Li-Fi has over Wi-Fi, Li-Fi networks are confined to certain limitations.
Internet access completely depends on a light source. This could affect the performance of Li-Fi technology in certain locations and situations.
Since Li-Fi uses visible light to transmit data, it cannot pass through opaque objects like walls. This would limit the coverage area of the Li-Fi network.
One of the biggest drawbacks of Li-Fi technology is that it will be affected by interference with other light sources. For instance, the Li-Fi signal will be interfered by sunlight which could result in interrupted internet access.
Major players in the Li-Fi market
Many companies are working towards developing this technology further. Come of the major companies are:
Experts Insights on Li-Fi technology
Randy Reid, the president of LumEfficient and Ed Huibers, head of business development at Signify, anticipate that the adoption of Li-Fi will exponentially increase in the next three years because of the massive amounts of data consumption. Randy Reid also believes Li-Fi to be ‘The light at the end of a tunnel’.
Shaymsundar Purkayastha, Co-founder of IoTracX, says that while 5G brings new aspects of user experience, Li-Fi will pave the way for new plug-and-play internet connectivity.
Though Li-Fi technology has immense advantages over Wi-Fi, it is impossible to replace Wi-Fi with Li-Fi. Li-Fi with limitations in its basic infrastructure can help provide internet connectivity in remote areas where Wi-Fi connectivity is difficult to be established. With Li-Fi and Wi-Fi working alongside each other, there are greater opportunities for many new groundbreaking technologies to emerge in the future.