Scientists have developed a new form of wireless communication for computers that is 100 times faster than Wi-Fi.
Called Li-Fi, it’s a wireless internet technology that rapidly transmits data using flickering LED light fields between 400 and 800 terahertz. It’s a process known as Visible Light Communication, which is like an advanced form of morse-code which, much like switching a torch on and off in a pattern that relays a message, the LED light flicks on and off at such extreme speeds that it can be used to write and transmit things in binary code.
Researchers at Estonian hardware start-up Velmenni successfully tested the technology in a commercial context, trialling it in offices and industrial environments in Tallinn, Estonia, reporting transmission speeds of 1 gigabits per second, 100 times faster than current average Wi-Fi speeds.
“We are doing a few pilot projects within different industries where we can utilise the VLC (visible light communication) technology,” chief executive Deepak Solanki told IBTimes UK.
“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.”
The researchers are also developing a series of smart LED bulbs – dubbed “Jugnu” – that can transfer data through visible light (though the flickering occurs at such rapid speeds it’s invisible to the human eye).
“We transferred serial data synchronously from a PC/Laptop screen to a micro-controller board using visible light,” the researchers wrote on their website. “A GUI was developed in MATLAB and a receiver circuit was made using Arduino and photodiodes. We successfully transferred a text file using this method. We only had to keep your micro-control board in front of the laptop screen (GUI) and the data was transferred wirelessly using visible light communication.
“Now, we are on our way to implement this unique technology in our Smart LED bulb which can transfer data to other bulbs, mobile phones, and internet.
“We are also working on an Android app which would receive data from Jugnu, The Smart LED bulb and would also transmit it back to the app.”
The trials come less than nine months after researchers at Oxford University achieved bi-directional speeds of 224 gigabits per second in a lab environment.
To put that in context, a speed of 224 Gbps would allow users to download eighteen 1.5GB movies in a single second.
Published in scientific journal Photonics Technology Letter, the researchers wrote that the Wi-Fi alternative could offer connections at order of magnitudes faster than current internet speeds.
“Optical fibre communication networks can provide terabit aggregate capacities to buildings and offices within modern cities,” the report reads. “Practical wireless systems are orders of magnitude below this capacity. In this letter, we describe an indoor optical bidirectional wireless link with an aggregate capacity over 100 Gb/s. The link operates over ~3 m range at 224 Gb/s (6 x 37.4 Gb/s) and 112 Gb/s (3 x 37.4 Gb/s) with a wide field of view (FOV) of 60° and 36°, respectively. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of a wireless link of this type with a [field of view] that offers practical room-scale coverage.”
Given light cannot pass through walls, li-fi also has the potential to provide low-cost wireless internet more securely than current wi-fi offerings.
Li-Fi is the brain child of founder of pureLiFi and director of LiFi R&D Centre at Edinburgh University Harald Haas.
Haas has previously theorised in a TED talk that LED lightbulbs could potentially be used as a high-speed replacement for Wi-Fi.
“We have the infrastructure there,” Haas said in a TED Talk. “We can use them for communications. 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.
“In the future we will not only have 14 billion light bulbs, we may have 14 billion Li-Fi’s deployed worldwide for a cleaner, greener and even a brighter future.”