Of the many applications that Li-Fi is already appearing suitable for, one that is already being implemented is the use in smart street lighting and the city of Dubai is leading the way. An announcement came from the UAE-based technology company Zero.1 that they have a working LED-powered internet street light system that will be installed and running by the end of the year.
Up to 100 lights will soon be illuminating the area known as the Silicon Oasis in Dubai where many tech companies are based. CEO of Zero.1, Marc Fleschen, showed how the new technology would work to a gathering of the media in Dubai in April.
The system will pair the commonly seen LED light bulbs with the new Li-Fi system to connect devices to the internet using light rather than the traditional method of Wi-Fi which makes use of radio waves. The expected speed of the system has the been shown to reach 224 GB per second.
The company have partnered with du to initiate the first working demonstration of Li-Fi technology in the Middle East and the next stage of the plan is to roll out the various Li-Fi applications over the next year. The project is planned to use the LED street lights to power the internet and means that the Silicon Oasis area of the city will have one of the first Li-Fi systems anywhere, adding to its top infrastructure that made it an ideal candidate for the project.
Each of the LED light bulbs that are being installed will be able to convert to a wireless router by the addition of just a small microchip. This microchip then transforms a normal LED streetlight into a Li-Fi hotspot.
The applications for the system exceed merely providing internet for businesses or homes close by. It could help with safety and security in the area, assist with traffic control and even monitor pollution levels as well as adding to data storage options for businesses. It is unclear if the system will be free to use for residents or if the network provider will charge.
Research has already shown that Li-Fi has the potential to be at least 100 times faster than Wi-Fi as well as costing far less for homes and businesses to operate. It is the fastest and cheapest way to wirelessly connect to the internet and will eventually give speeds of more than 10 Gbps – that means it would take less than 30 seconds to download a HD film.
Other examples of the use of the technology on show included Fleschen streaming music to an internet enabled wireless speaker just by putting it under a table lamp containing an LED light bulb. In the near future, the LED street lights will be able to create Li-Fi hotspots where streaming video and audio, accessing the internet and many other functions will be possible just by being under the light.
Further ahead, the same technology can work from table and floor lamps as well as the lights in rooms and buildings. In fact, some tests by Zero.1 have shown that the camera sensors in the current smartphones such as the iPhone 5s and the Galaxy S6 can even connect to Li-Fi.
Adapting to Li-Fi
Nor will older devices be excluded from the revolution as a simply dongle will be issued that will allow them to access the new system, much as computers once used to wireless access the internet. And new devices will come with the in-built ability to access Li-Fi just as current devices can access Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Speed and quality of signal depends on the LED lights used but Fleschen said there is no loss of connectivity when you more from one room to another. Just like currently devices, content will be buffered and this will allow the connectivity to be maintained during the short trip from the living room to the kitchen for example.
Already, experts are confident that the global market for Li-Fi will reach $80 billion by 2021 and demand for the technology will increase steadily in the coming years. Businesses will begin to seek custom made solutions for their businesses and companies such as Zero.1 are already looking at options to provide this.
High density areas
High density areas where the demand for internet connection is high are those who will particularly benefit from Li-Fi. Concert halls, museums, malls and similar public places can make use of the high speed connection for a wide range of technologies while still allowing visitors to access the internet as usual.
And because Li-Fi uses visible light spectrum rather than radio frequencies in the case of Wi-Fi, there is much more room for a multitude of people to be using the system at once without losing speed, as happens currently when there are lots of people using a Wi-Fi connection at the same time.
The nature of Li-Fi means it is also safer to use in high risk environments such as hospitals, medical centres and even in schools where Wi-Fi signals can interfere with equipment. But at the same time, Wi-Fi can still be used so the two systems can complement one another.
Currently, the only real drawback with the system is the range and the fact that the signals cannot penetrate walls because light cannot. This would means installing an LED in each room of a building to access it in all locations. But then, most every house and business premises has a light bulb in every room anyway so therefore it would simply mean using something that was already present. It also uses very little energy so could have the effect of lowering utility bills as less electricity is needed.
The first use of Li-Fi in homes is expected in the last quarter of 2016 or the first quarter of 2017, according to Zero.1 and its CEO. While equipment could be expensive to start with, as the system grows in popularity and increases in scope, this cost is likely to decrease and mean more and more homes can make the switch.