Information Technology

Ubiquity of Light – Li-Fi through Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) to Redefine Wireless Tech

The past few years have witnessed an astounding rise in wireless traffic—opening new set of challenges to the prevailing wireless technologies. The enormous increased in internet-of-things (IoT) devices has accelerated that pace in recent years. The predominance Wi-Fi technology, along with the wireless protocols, despite the galloping growth over the years, has seemingly failed to meet the demand for more frequencies. The appetite is vast as can be witnessed in a projection made by Cisco, a multinational tech conglomerate: 500 billion IoT devices are expected to be connected to the Internet by 2030.

With the burgeoning traffic, will the current state of wireless techz be able to keep pace? Unarguably, spectrum is scarce entity, and the currently available ones for telecom companies are exploiting are not without glaring limitations. The exploitation of spectrum is moving at breakneck speed, and is poised to make spectrum scarcer year after year.

Interestingly, pioneers found a way out and starting seeking new value by replacing radio-waves with light. This has set the stage for some interesting innovation, particularly Light-fidelity (Li-Fi).

Wireless-fidelity (Wi-Fi) and Bluetooth to Light-fidelity (Li-Fi) LED  

From 3G to 4G to now upcoming 5G—the movement from bits to gigabits has been faster than imagined. Consequently, speed of access and security of data have been under constant scanner.

The emerging 5G wireless technologies and their inroads into the IoT framework present an incredible proposition for the development of Li-Fi. Using the ubiquity of light for transmitting data has attracted a groundswell of attention among telecom companies, tech companies, and end-use enterprises alike. The ubiquity has extended the mobility and enables multiuser access—making visible light spectrum as a promising next-gen wireless tech in the Li-Fi market.

As more and more light bulbs are being converted to LED, the data rates in cellular communication that light can transfer is apparently beyond imagination. These have raised hopes high.

Commercialization of Li-Fi-compatible products are hitting user’s imagination looking for state-of-the art wireless solutions—for enterprises as well as individual consumers of data worldwide. The push for new revenue streams has evidently come from lighting companies. World’s prominent lighting solution providers have ramped up their investments not just recently but since 2010. The business models of a few have changed—unsurprisingly so. Li-Fi vendors have acquired start-ups. Two cases in point are Luciom and FireFly.

Hopes Reign High

What all this will lead to is open to anyone’s speculation in the wireless technology landscape? The access points have increased markedly, as more and more LED bulbs light up living rooms. Several projects and pilot studies have indeed been successful in transmitting Gigabytes of data over fairly long distances. In one of the studies, researchers have demonstrated that with Li-Fi they achieved attain bi-directional speeds of 224 Gbps. In another study, different colors of LED light have become carriers of massive data at unprecedented study.

All these have spurred euphemism for end users of wireless technologies. End-use applications notably automation, AR/VR, and IoT are anchored the growth prospects of the Li-Fi market.

Most interestingly and perhaps, the next-gen wireless tech is poised to transform the scale of deployment of IoT. The ecosystem for Li-Fi market continues to expand—including telecom operators, chip providers, and manufacturers of power components.

Light-to-Digital Light to Illuminate New Propositions: Are Lighting Cos Ready to Capture the Value?

Li-Fi is emerging as the new accelerator for powering large-scale deployment of IoT devices. Specifically, industry players will make the protocol sit under 5G. More and more lighting companies in particular are throwing their weight behind Li-Fi. LED solution providers are partnering with telecom equipment suppliers for networking devices by harnessing light. A case in point has been the Zumtobel Group, an Austrian company, tying up with a U.K.-based Li-Fi company pureLiFi to make joint trials to unveil Li-Fi-compatible products.

Several other companies are foraying into unlocking new value in the Li-Fi market and have begun commercializing the tech.

The profound potential notwithstanding, few inherent challenges remain, the key of which are the need for clear line of sight for Li-Fi to transfer data at high speed and also the low distance range. Compatible products are also few currently. Nonetheless, hopefully these will be circumvented with the ceaseless pace of innovation.

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