Li-Fi, a super-fast alternative to Wi-Fi, is finally moving from research labs to the real world after an Estonian startup implemented the technology within a commercial context. Velmenni, a recent finalist at the Slush 100 startup competition in Helsinki, revealed that it has begun trialling the technology within offices and industrial environments in Tallinn.
The Li-Fi technology used by Velmenni in the pilots is able to send data at up to 1GBps - more than 100-times faster than current Wi-Fi technologies. At these speeds, a high-definition film could be downloaded in just a few seconds.
What is Li-Fi?
Li-Fi is a wireless technology similar to Wi-Fi that allows data to be sent at high speeds using visible light communication (VLC). Invented by Professor Harald Haas from the University of Edinburgh, Li-Fi has several advantages over Wi-Fi.
Li-Fi allows for greater security on local networks as light cannot pass through walls, which also means there is less interference between devices. Perhaps the most significant advantage is the speed that the technology offers. Researchers have achieved speeds of 224 gigabits per second in lab conditions.
"We are doing a few pilot projects within different industries where we can utilise the VLC (visible light communication) technology," Deepak Solanki, CEO of Velmenni, 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."
While Li-Fi may not completely replace Wi-Fi, the technologies could be used in parallel to create more efficient networks. The success of the pilot projects could see Li-Fi technology rolled out for consumers within the next three to four years, according to Solanki, allowing people to access the internet using the light bulbs in their home.
Li-Fi will also need to be optimized for security before it can start replacing Wi-Fi. Staying safe on Li-Fi networks is easier than staying safe on Wi-Fi, granted, but it's not a finished product, so you should still use third-party software—like a VPN—to boost your security.
Before mass adoption of Li-Fi can be realised, techniques need to be developed to retrofit current devices with the technology. "It is very difficult to create a whole new infrastructure for Li-Fi so somehow we need integrate our system with the current system," Solanki said.
The inventor of Li-Fi, Professor Harald Haas from the University of Edinburgh, has previously claimed that in the future every LED lightbulb could be used as an ultra-fast alternative to Wi-Fi. In a TED talk describing the technology, Haas said that current infrastructure was suitable for the integration of Li-Fi.
"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," Haas said. "In the future we will not only have 14 billion light bulbs, we may have 14 billion Li-Fis deployed worldwide for a cleaner, greener and even brighter future."