A newly discovered technology using light waves can produce download speeds up to 100 times faster than the traditional Wi-Fi. Is this the future of our internet?
Tired of slow download speeds when trying to watch the latest episode of “House of Cards” on Netflix? Thanks to science, you might be able to replace your slow Wi-Fi with an updated wireless technology that uses visible light communication to transmit data. Meet Li-Fi, a faster and possibly even more secure way to get online.
The internet has seen huge levels of growth over the last several years. With the mobile age upon us, the rise of big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) starting to become a reality, it’s no surprise that the internet is flourishing at such a rapid pace. The general prediction is that internet growth will only increase. In fact, it’s predicted that by 2019 more than ten billion mobile devices will exchange 35 quintillion bytes of information each month. Add desktop internet connectivity, IoT and every other means of connecting to the internet, and you can begin to see the direction our connected world is headed.
So will our primary means of connecting to the internet, through Wi-Fi, be able to handle so much data transmission? And will it be fast enough?
Obviously this is a concern for many, but thanks to new discoveries by scientists there may just be another option that is leaps and bounds ahead of Wi-Fi. Li-Fi is a new technology that uses Visible Light Communication (VLC) to transmit data. These LED-powered light waves flicker at speeds much faster than the naked eye can see, transmitting data at an incredibly fast rate. In fact, scientists recorded speeds as high as 224 gigabits per second, which translates to more than 100 times the speed of average office Wi-Fi speeds.
Li-Fi requires very little energy when transmitting data, and practically any LED light source could be used as a Li-Fi source. According to the inventor of Li-Fi, German physicist Harald Haas, any LED lightbulb could be transformed into a wireless router as long as you can fit a small microchip in it. This would combine the two basic functionalities – illumination and wireless data transmission – required for Li-Fi. When Haas introduced the idea in a Ted Talk clear back in 2011, he said:
“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.”
When Haas delivered his Ted talk, most people thought of Li-Fi as a cool idea, but not a realistic option for transmitting data. However, scientists recently discovered and tested how they could actually use Li-Fi as a substitute for Wi-Fi. Spoiler alert: it works, and it’s really, really fast.
As you might imagine, Li-Fi does have a downside. Unlike Wi-Fi, Li-fi cannot pass through walls or anything else that would block the emitted light. So, if my Li-Fi-powered LED light source is in the living room, I wouldn’t be able to access the internet in the kitchen. Yes, a pretty major drawback. However, Li-Fi is still a new technology that is currently in production stages. Expect new breakthroughs to come forth that will solve the limiting drawbacks of Li-Fi.
Li-Fi’s problem of not being able to pass through walls could also be seen as an increased security measure. Since the device has to be in the vicinity of the LED light, a hacker couldn’t tap into the network from the next room over and beyond, and intercept the data being transmitted.
It’s predicted that Li-Fi could reach consumers in about three to four years. Even when it does come to light, Wi-Fi will probably stick around for a while, if not forever. We could see the possible scenario of Wi-Fi networks remaining in place, with designated Li-Fi hotspots designated for high speed use. In other words, Wi-Fi will probably work together with Li-Fi to create faster and more secure ways of sending data back and forth.