Implications for Li-Fi in Factories and the IoT
As more industrial premises are switching onto the idea of using packet data to send and receive information around their factories, and warehouses, they also getting switched onto the idea of using wireless systems. The trouble is that Wi-Fi isn’t always a viable solution: the buildings may be made of the wrong material - concrete absorbs Wi-Fi signals; there may be too much metal either in cages, motors, vehicles etc which can bounce the signal in too many directions and cause loss of signal. There may also be concerns about security.
But now there’s a solution to these problems, using something that’s already in place in every factory, every warehouse, every office and every home everywhere. Li-Fi, a term coined by its inventor Harold Haas, was first invented in 2011 and after successful trials it moved into the real world in 2015. In the lab, Harold and his team achieved speeds of a whopping 224gigabits (24 GB) a second! But in trials in offices and industrial environments in Estonia that’s dropped to a much smaller, but still very impressive 1GB per second or 100 times faster than Wi-Fi and eight times faster than Ethernet! For a more detailed analysis of the differences between Wi-Fi and Li-Fi this article from Science Alert is worth a read.
But how does it work? Basically, it works by switching LED lights off in a pattern, much like Morse code, at speeds so fast the human eye can’t detect it. It uses Visible Light Communication (VLC) which captures light at between 400 and 800 terahertz (THz) and transmits data in binary.
Haas, has created a company, pureLiFi, which aims to bring the technology to the wider public by providing a plug-and-play solution which provides secure wireless internet access at 11.5 Mbps using a standard LED bulb.
It’s early days, and it will be a while before we start seeing Li-Fi enabled laptops, I/O modules, street lights or other devices but it’s reasonable to assume that one day, in the near future, the light we work under will also be simultaneously sending and receiving secure interference free data.