Li-fi technology ushers in a era of internet through a light bulb


In this day and age, you can watch sci-fi engaging new age science in a one sided struggle to widen the fast filling gap closing in on it. A recent discussion with Chi Nan, an IT professor at Fudan University in Shanghai revealed to Xinhua News that a micro chipped bulb was able to produce data speeds of 150 Mbps which could provide network connectivity to four computers.

This technology, li-fi, also known as visible light communications or VLC for short could possibly provide faster and cheaper speeds compared to the average Chinese broadband connection. However experts were reluctant to back these claims for their lack of proof clearly demonstrating their capabilities.

The basis of this concept was demonstrated in 2001 by Prof Harlad Haas, an expert in optical wireless communications at
the University of Edinburgh, using an LED bulb equipped with signal processing technology that was able to stream HD video to a computer. He there after coined the term light-fidelity or li-fi and setup a private company, PureVLC to exploit the technology.

This year, the Fraunhofer Henrich institute claimed that laboratory conditions demonstrated data rates up to 1Gbps for each
LED light frequency were possible, thus one bulb with three colours could potentially transmit data at up to 3Gbps.

Li-fi is a potentially cheaper and more energy efficient data transfer alternative to existing wireless radio systems attributed to the ubiquity of LED bulbs and the fact that visible light is 10000 times bigger than the radio spectrum in the electromagnetic spectrum, thus in comparison, having potentially unlimited capacity.

However, inherent to the primary properties of light, the signal can easily be blocked by blocking the light. While this attribute is somewhat undesirable, it can be exploited as a security measure against, for instance, drive-by wireless hacking of wireless signals which would be almost impossible through solid walls.

As far as research and development has come, the technology still remains at its infancy at this stage and in need for
further developments in microchip design and optical communication controls before it can hit the mass market, says Prof Chi of the research team of scientists from the Shanghai institute of Technical physics and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The team hopes to show off sample li-fi kits at the China International industry Fair in Shanghai on November 5.