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Future Tech: 

Everything you need to know about Li-Fi

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Turns out Wi-Fi is “so last year” thanks to the discovery of a new method of wireless connection – Li-Fi.

This impressive new method of delivering data works by using the visible spectrum as opposed to Wi-Fi, which relies on radio waves in the atmosphere. It’s been tested in a working environment and the results are pretty astonishing. It’s believed that the Li-Fi connection is capable of delivering speeds 100 times faster than regular Wi-Fi. To be a little more specific, it can reach up to speeds of 1Gbps, which, by the way, is an entire gigabit per second.

All it requires in order to function is a standard LED bulb, an internet connection and a photo detector.

Not to get too scientific, but essentially, Li-Fi works in a similar manner to a remote control. Information is encoded in light pulses and modern LEDs can transmit enough data to create a stable broadband connection.

It was German physicist Harald Haas who first coined the term Li-Fi back in 2011. It was then that Haas, a professor at the University of Edinburgh, introduced the technology at a TED conference, wowing everyone in the audience that day. He went on to found his own company, pureLiFi, with an accompanying mission statement: “To be the world leader in Visible Light Communications technology enabling ubiquitous, high-speed, secure data networks wherever there is illumination.”

More recently, however, the technology has been tested by an Estonian start-up company called Velmenni, in Tallinn. They used a Li-Fi enabled bulb to transmit data at speeds of 1Gbps. To take this a bit further, lab tests by the same company have shown that, in theory, Li-Fi could even reach speeds of up to 224Gbps.

So why should you choose Li-Fi? For starters, it’s far more efficient. Seeing as you’re already using bulbs to provide light in your office there are no added energy costs. You can even dim the light that’s being emitted from the bulb to the point where it looks like it’s barely even on and this will still work.

It also works pretty much anywhere that you see a lightbulb so it’s almost always readily available. There’s a big security advantage too. Since light cannot penetrate walls, the connection is only available to people in the same room. Finally, unlike Wi-Fi, Li-Fi doesn’t interfere with radio signals, so you won’t run into the problem of not being able to use it on an aircraft (which could signal the end of having to put your phone in dreaded flight mode).

Li-Fi does of course have its drawbacks, primarily being the fact that it can’t be used outdoors in direct sunlight due to signal interference.

Looking forward, however, Professor Haas has said that he envisions billions of lightbulbs being used as wireless hotspots, making access fairly open to all. If you want to learn a little bit more about it all then check out Professor Haas’ TED Talk below.

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