The Internet of Things (IoT), where everyday appliances are embedded with Internet con¬nectivity, will soon turn all our gadgets into smart devices. Smart Cities, which are being developed all over the world, will allow pedestrians and vehicles seamless connectivity and smart solutions to everyday problems like traffic jams, where to park, where to shop, etc.
But in order for all these things to happen, we need massive bandwidth and high Internet speeds. And we need it to be wireless. WiFi and mobile wireless connectivity won’t be sufficient. That’s where Li-Fi comes into the picture.
Li-Fi, obviously a play on the phrase “WiFi”, stands for Light Fidelity and, as its name suggests, it provides for high-speed wireless Internet through light rather than radio waves. The term was coined by Harald Haas, a physics pro¬fessor at the University of Edinburgh who introduced it during a TED Talk in 2011.
He was doing research on this technology at the time and he envisioned a system where light bulbs could act as wireless routers. In 2012, he helped set up a company called pureLiFi to commercialise this technology. Other companies have since jumped on the Li-Fi bandwagon, most notably Signify (formerly Philips Lighting) which deals with Li-Fi.
The light bulbs used for Li-Fi are LED bulbs which can be switched on and off very quickly (unlike conven¬tional light bulbs which have a warm-up time). In fact, LEDs can be turned on and off so quickly that the human eye cannot detect it. This flickering, which happens at a rate of 10 times the speed of light coming from your TV, can represent a binary one when the LED is on, and a binary zero when the LED is off. This can be translated into data by special receivers.
Li-Fi doesn’t require a special router to create a hotspot. All you’d need is a special dongle attached to your laptop to receive the data sent out through Li- Fi. Of course later on down the road, when Li-Fi is more commonplace, you’ll likely see Li-Fi capability built into your devices like laptops, tablets and phones.
Read about the pros and cons of Li-Fi here.