While LiFi is very much a developing technology at the moment thanks to the work of Professor Harald Haas, his team and other researchers around the world, attention is already turning to the applications of this system. While there may be some limitations at the moment, there are already a wide range of applications for LiFi and more are being thought up every day.
For many of us, the most interesting applications of LiFi will be those that directly affect us either at home or at work. In the home, one of the biggest issues for WiFi is the restrictions that are inherent to the system. When there are a few people using the home internet connection at the same time, it can become sluggish and slow to respond. This is because WiFi is restricted to radio frequencies, of which there are a limited number.
But LiFi faces no such restrictions because there are thousands of visible light spectrums that can be used to send data. This means once a house uses a LiFi system to access the internet, there is a much wider bandwidth available for everyone to use at the same time. Laptops, tablets, smartphones and games consoles can all connect to the internet through LiFi and experience a far speedier service that available with WiFi.
Many devices use location based services or LBS to provide us with accurate information. For example, when we search for the nearest supermarket, our smartphone uses the current location of the device to taper the results. LiFi provides highly accurate and quick location based services allowing this information to be delivered to the smartphone even if it isn’t in a WiFi hotspot or is suffering from a poor reception. It also increases the accuracy and speed of traffic and navigation information, reducing the chance of getting lost or running into congestion before the system warns you.
LiFi can also be adapted to send power as well as information and therefore can charge mobile devices while they are in use. Smartphones, tablets and wearable tech could all receive charge from LED lights along with data, solving the problem of running out of charge when away from a charging point.
More and more kids toys use some element of interactive connectivity to perform various functions. Many toys also make use of LED lights in one form or another so the combination of the two could make for quick and efficient internet connections and mean that toys won’t suffer from a reduction of bandwidth issue.
Electromagnetic interference is something that effects sensitive equipment such as in planes or in hospitals as well as being generated from equipment used in mines and chemical plants. Some people are sensitive to this kind of interference and experience problems living near sources of RF such as mobile phone masts. LiFi doesn’t generate EMI so these issues can be solved.
When working in jobs that involve underwater elements, RF waves have been shown to disturb wildlife and is somewhat impractical. However, the use of visible light has no effect on the underwater residents and makes for an effective way to connect one person to another via LED light bulbs.
For those with driving jobs, the use of LED lightbulbs in car, van and large vehicle headlights and interiors could also make each vehicle a mobile LiFi hotspot to access the internet. As vehicles become ‘smarter’ and use more interconnected technology, this would ensure a consistent connection to the internet that wouldn’t drop out when away from a WiFi signal area.
A massive concern for businesses is the security of their networks and the vulnerability of WiFi networks to hackers sitting just outside the building. However, LiFi cannot be accessed through walls so this makes for an inherently more secure network. No-one can sit outside the building and hack into the network to access sensitive data on the mainframe.
The technology has a great potential for augmented reality and advertising applications. Imaging going to a museum and walking through the interior of the Great Pyramid – this could be done with LiFi enabled technology. It would also mean further information about the exhibit could be sent straight to the smartphone or tablet a visitor was carrying. In terms of advertising, a similar idea would be possible as well as sending coupons and location information straight to a phone as a shopper enters an establishment.
LED lights are already being introduced around the world in street lighting and in other public places. The development of LiFi would transform these lights into hotspots to allow people to connect to the internet whenever they are in line of light with the bulb. This would stop the problem of areas with poor or no internet connection as virtually everywhere has street and public lighting.
One of the biggest issues with WiFi can be the interference it creates but this isn’t an issue with LiFi as it uses light rather than radio waves. Currently hospitals and other healthcare facilities stop people using WiFi as it effects their sensitive machines but by switching to LiFi, this problem vanishes and means people could use the internet while staying or visiting hospital. This would make for a happier and more relaxing stay and therefore possibly improve recovery times.
Using LiFi would see the end of the dreaded radio mast for internet and mobile phone purposes. These towers are increasing in frequency to handle the requirements from homes and businesses and are as dense as one every 500 metres in some places. The LiFi system doesn’t need these towers so once the system is in use, the towers can be removed.
The bulky and space-consuming nature of many electronics is one of the top uses of space within an aeroplane and often dictates the internal layout. By switching to LiFi, planes could become lighter in weight as well as allowing different layouts. They would also allow passengers to use in-flight entertainment systems with their own devices without worrying about the interference effecting the delicate flight systems.
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