A new technology known as LiFi could one day offer internet speeds one hundred times faster than the WiFi we use today.
Scientists have achieved speeds in the lab of up to 224GB per second, which is the equivalent of downloading 18 movies in the blink of an eye.
LiFi, also known as light fidelity, is now moving to trials in the real world, with office tests in Tallin, Estonia achieving speeds of 1GB per second, 100 times the speed of the traditional WiFi.
Like radio waves, visible light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The difference is that viable light has a spectrum 10,000 times larger than radio waves. This means LiFi has the potential for enormous capacity. Instead of transmitting information via one data stream, visible light would make it possible to transmit the same information using thousands of data streams simultaneously.
LiFi would then work by flashing LED lights on and off at incredibly fast speeds, sending data to a reciever in binary code. It’s essentially an ultra-fast version of turning your flashlight on and off to create morse code.
The speed at which the flashes occur is so fast that they are not seen by the naked eye. Harald Haas, a software developer, explained, “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.” In other words, the infrastructure is already there and we can use the existing LED bulbs we have, with some tweaking. This is where the WiFi we use today has its limitations. As we continue to use WiFi as a means of accessing the internet, it goes without saying that it has its challenges.
The world’s desire for more data at faster rates is now pushing WiFi’s capacity to its limits. Wi-Fi is achieved by transmitting data through radio waves, but can only transfer so much at a time. It is estimated, that by 2019, the world will be exchanging approximately 35 quintillion bytes of information each month. With radio frequencies already in use and heavily regulated, the data is going to struggle to find a spot in line. Simply put, WiFi is running out of space.
Capacity is only part of the problem. Base stations which are responsible for transmitting radio waves only function at five per cent efficiency, which is most of the energy being used to cool the stations. For those transmitting sensitive data, security is also a problem, as radio waves travel through solid objects such as walls and doors.
LiFi probably will not bring about the end of WiFi, and most definitely not for the foreseeable future. Although it would be the faster option, visible light does not penetrate solid objects like radio waves do. If you would leave the room in which you are using LiFi, your connection would be lost.
However, for strong security and data protection, this can certainly be seen as an advantage. For more practical purposes; however, a hybrid of LiFi and Wifi is more likely.