The inventor of the light bulb could of hardly imagined that in one day, it will be used not only for lighting homes worldwide, but also for data transfer that will allow people to download information from satellites in space directly in their portable devices. The light bulbs in a house will have a double role with the introduction of Li-Fi technology, a form of data transmission at speeds 100 times higher than Wi-Fi.
Li-Fi technology was invented in 2011 by Harold Haas, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh in laboratory experiments. It uses visible light communication (VLC) to transmit data at high speeds. Put simply, the system resembles a lamp blink so that their message is translated into binary code (0 and 1).
Laboratory experiments were able to achieve data transmission speeds of 224 GB per second. That would be the size of 18 films per second downloading from the Internet. As a comparison, in theory, Wi-Fi technology is capable of speeds 600 MB per second (1,000 MB = 1 GB).
The technology has been tested in the real life conditions with a company called Velmenni from Estonia, which implemented the system in its offices and other locations in its capital, Tallinn. In these environments, they managed to obtain a connection speed of 1 GB per second.
Beyond superior speed, Li-Fi technology has a number of benefits related to network security – the signal is transmitted via light waves that do not penetrate the walls of a room, but also has drawbacks, such as the user is stuck in that room. The company is currently working on finding solutions to allow for Li-Fi signal transmission on a wider range of frequencies.
It is estimated that LED bulbs already used in houses could be readily converted into Li-Fi transmitters by attaching a microchip, which would provide a dual function: issuing light and transmitting data. The speed at which these pulsating LED are operating is much too high to be perceived by the human eye, so not a problem there. It remains to be seen how much longer it will take to successfully implement the technology on a large-scale. Visible light communication (VLC) technology is already used for other purposes, such as creating high-tech toys. For example, Disney has used this technology to build a “magic wand” that can light up the LEDs on a princess dress.