Although LED lighting is normally associated with energy savings, the technology also has potential to improve Internet communications significantly.
There is an emerging concept called Visible Light Communication (VLC), which consists on using light pulses for wireless data transmission, just like Wi-Fi signals but with significant advantages in terms of speed, bandwidth and security.
Li-Fi is a subtype of VLC, and it could potentially succeed Wi-Fi as our main form of wireless communication. Li-Fi signals can be distributed through LED fixtures as light pulses that are invisible to the human eye but can be picked up by sensors in connected devices.
Li-Fi Offers a Much Wider Spectrum than Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi communication has successfully met the data transmission needs of human society, but the Internet of Things will bring new challenges, as billions of new devices are brought online throughout the world. Wi-Fi uses the radiofrequency spectrum for communication, and it is becoming saturated as the number of connected devices grows.
On the other hand, Li-Fi uses the visible light spectrum, which is around 10,000 times broader than the RF spectrum. This means that Li-Fi is better suited to accommodate the large number of devices that will be brought online as the IoT becomes mainstream.
Speed Advantage of Li-Fi Over Wi-Fi
The Internet of Things will not only require a much broader frequency spectrum to transmit data, it will also be necessary to handle much larger volumes of information. Experimental Li-Fi products have already achieved data transmission speeds exceeding 10 gigabits per second, far beyond the capabilities of Wi-Fi, which has maximum speeds of around 300 megabits per second; in other words, Li-Fi is more than 30 times faster and still has plenty of potential to evolve.
Thanks to their bandwidth and speed, Li-Fi and other VLC technologies can potentially become the backbone of the Internet of Things, and each LED fixture can become a communication hub. If connected devices are equipped with optical sensors and emitters, they can interface with the nearest LED fixture and become part of a Li-Fi network.
Safety Advantage of Li-Fi Signals
Li-Fi requires a direct line of sight between the connected device and an LED fixture. This might seem like a disadvantage, considering how Wi-Fi can go through walls and opaque objects, but there are several benefits:
- The inability of Li-Fi to cross walls is compensated by the fact that lighting fixtures are everywhere in built environments, both indoors and outdoors.
- Privacy and data security will be enhanced. For example, hackers will require direct line of sight to access a specific Li-Fi fixture.
- The total cost of electrical installations and data networks will be greatly reduced, as lighting and wireless communication are unified into a single system.
Visible Light Communication will turn LED lighting into a much more valuable technology, which will not only save energy, but will also provide communication services at much faster speeds than current Wi-Fi networks.