We all know about Wi-Fi. You’re probably using the wireless internet standard right now to read this. But Li-Fi? What’s it all about and how can it be 100 times faster than Wi-Fi?
How does Li-Fi work?
Li-Fi uses light to send data to your phone, tablet or computer. Wi-Fi and your mobile internet connection, on the other hand, use radio waves, which makes them much slower.
To transmit data, Li-Fi switches an LED on and off really fast - between 400 billion and 800 billion times a second. A special chip in your device then reads the pattern of the flickering as data.
Because everything’s flickering so fast and light travels faster than anything else, Li-Fi internet speeds are around 100 times faster than Wi-Fi. That’s fast enough to download 18 HD movies in a second.
The great thing is, Li-Fi isn’t just fast in theory. Researchers have already tested it in the real world and managed to get 1GB per second download speeds. That makes the real world Li-Fi speeds around 667 times faster than the average Wi-Fi speed.
Li-Fi has more going for it that just speed, it’s secure too. Because it’s all based around light, the signal won’t pass through walls. That means you’ll have to have lights on in every room so you don’t lose signal, but it also means people can’t hack into your internet connection.
Because of this unique security feature, businesses are already exploring Li-Fi as their main connectivity option and one company is actually installing it in hospitals.
When can I get Li-Fi?
You already can. The discoverer of Li-Fi, Harold Haas of the University of Edinburgh, has set up a company called pureLiFi, and it’s already selling its first Li-Fi ‘router’. It’s only a pilot scheme to help test the tech in the real world, but if you’re lucky you might be able to get hold of the Li-1st system.
Even if Li-1st was a finished product ready for the mass market, there is one thing to consider before you get too excited by Li-Fi.
It uses visible light to send data, which means you’ll always have to have a light on to get internet access. Not much of a problem in big offices, but could be an issue at home.
Having said that, Haas does say Li-Fi will offer energy savings – we assume that’s because an LED bulb uses less electricity than your Wi-Fi router.
Because of this limitation, Li-Fi won’t completely replace Wi-Fi and our mobile data. Instead it will work with our other internet connections to provide seamless access to high speed networking all the time.
What’s the future for Li-Fi?
Li-Fi is looking very promising. Haas and pureLiFi are working on how to retrofit Li-Fi into our current lighting. Haas says: "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."
We can’t wait.