LiFi continues to step towards communications by visible light at home, but slower than we would like

Despite the advances of WiFi networks, a couple of years ago we were surprised by the possibilities of visible light communications materialized in what was known as LiFi. It promised safer networks and dizzying speeds through light bulbs with a multitude of new applications in different domains and professionals.

What was it all about? Well that from time to time we see in some fairs the advances in this technology with semi-commercial products that do not seem to finish reaching the market. The last time has been this week in the MWC 2017, where some devices have been shown and the interest on LiFi has been relaunched again.

Image Source: Google Image

What is LiFi?

LiFi is the latest commercial name for an optical communications technology that has been under research for more than 100 years and consists of transmitting data at frequencies between 400 and 800 THz (i.e. in the visible spectrum of humans) in open space Guided as fiber optics.

It aims to be able to transmit information with conventional lighting elements such as light bulbs and LEDs at the same time as it illuminates, or not, a room, and adding only a few cheap and easy to manufacture elements to the current bulbs.

It requires a modulator in the transmitting part that will turn off and on the light source very quickly imperceptibly for the users, thus creating the zeros and binaries, and a photo diode in the receiving part (for example in the mobile, tablet or Laptop) that collects light changes and will pass them back to the electrical domain.

The first versions used fluorescent lamps that reached speeds of a few Kbps. Later LEDs were started, capable of being turned off and on faster, with more power, multiplying the final speeds. In 2011 Professor Harald Haas of the University of Edinburgh showed the first device he called Li-Fi transmitting at 10 Mbps.

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Later speculation was started with speeds of up to 500 Mbps (supposedly what was considered the physical limit of this technology) and later the Fraunhofer Institute of Berlin showed its advances indicating that they could reach 800 Mbps. Finally, the research continues with proposals that want to reach 15 Gbps (1.88 GBps) as they optimize the operation of both the sending and the receiving.

Image Source: Google Image

LiFi in MWC 2017

At the Barcelona Congress, Harald Burchardt, one of the leaders of the company behind this technology called PureLiFi, talked about the progress made in recent months, which have focused more on improving what already existed and on To solicit the interest of the investors to give the definitive push to this system of interior communications.

They have shown what they call the LiFi-X system, which basically consists of an accessory to convert the LED bulbs into LiFi and a USB dongle to do the same with our computers achieving speeds up and down 42 Mbps, which for the Times are a little scarce.

However, PureLiFi says that it is only the beginning and that they are already working with companies such as Cisco, British Telecom or Babcock to obtain feedback of their product and achieve improvements that in a few months would reach 80 or 100 Mbps with expectations of having a capable system To reach 1 Gbps in three years (we will have to see it, since this has been suggested for three more years and we are still waiting).

The potential applications are numerous, especially to bring the connectivity to all corners of the home using mixed systems such as PLC and WiFi that at some point use LiFi as the ultimate secure interface. Also for professional environments and for shared networks with many users in public places.

The problem is that it is still more of a utopia than a real functional system that draws our attention to its qualities and possibilities and at this 2017 congress it seems that much remains to be done before LiFi can take advantage of it. We will remain attentive to its evolution.

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