New technology appears at a near daily rate in recent times, all promising to revolutionise the way we do things in its particular area. Unfortunately, for various reasons, many of these technologies fall by the wayside and never fulfil their potential. But in LiFi there is both the potential and a clear path to everyday, home use. So why would LiFi be a better technology for us to use than the existing WiFi system?
Currently, WiFi is the way that we access the internet in the vast majority of cases. This is through laptops and PC, tablets, smartphones, games devices, smart devices such as TVs and hundreds of other ways. Anything that is connected to the internet or uses the internet in any of its functions does so through WiFi which uses radio waves to transmit the data.
Currently, WiFi is viewed much like gas and electricity, as a utility that we use on a daily basis, both at home and in our jobs. Because the internet has become so crucial a part of everything we do, WiFi has also taken a role at front and centre.
Currently, mobile phones send over 600 Tb of data and this all goes through the wireless networks. There are some 5 billion mobile phone owners around the world, making use of these networks. This has meant an ever increasing number of cellular mast radio wave base stations, or mobile towers, which means there are over 1.4 million at the moment and the figure is set to increase.
So why would we consider replacing this everyday, commonplace and crucial system with something new, in this case LiFi? We would consider it because there are a number of clear advantages to the new system over its predecessor that can make it ideal in a wide number of applications.
Let’s start with radio waves, used by WiFi systems to send data. These insubstantial waves are limited, scarce and expensive as well as only appearing within a certain range. New technologies such as 3G and 4G are already showing that we are running out of radio waves to use.
LiFi, on the other hand, doesn’t use radio waves but instead uses visible light and there is a lot of this around. In fact, there are at least 10,000 times more light spectrums than there are radio ones so the capacity for using LiFi to send data is vastly bigger than with radio waves.
Because LiFi uses light, which is everywhere, the data can be sent wherever the light is. Because the system uses LED lights, already becoming a very popular choice for lighting needs, it is easy to adapt existing lighting systems to also carry data. LED lights are so popular because they use very little energy compared to normal light bulbs and the addition of the LiFi system doesn’t increase this usage level.
Talking of energy, we also use a lot of energy to operate those 1.4 million mobile towers and most of it isn’t used for the transmission of data but to cool down the base stations. This means by eliminating the need for these stations, we can cut down the use of energy. Base stations tend to be highly inefficient, rating as only 5% efficient in most cases. So not only do we decrease the energy useable but we reduce energy waste.
While the availability of radio waves is a major cause for concern, they are also a big source of problems for a variety of computerised systems. If you have ever seen a sign asking you to turn off your smartphone when entering a building, this is because the WiFi radio waves can cause problems for the machinery operating within the building. Hospitals are top of this list with their life-saving equipment that can be disrupted by the presence of radio signals and airplanes also suffer from similar problems. LiFi, on the other hand, doesn’t create these problems because it uses light rather than radio and therefore can operate in buildings with sensitive equipment without causing problems.
For the same reason, LiFi makes for an excellent means of data transmission for businesses that use sensitive equipment, with petrochemical plants being a good example. Even petrol pumps can be disrupted by radio signals but are unaffected by visible light. This would mean that people working within these organisations can use the internet without concern for the impact it would have.
When people ask if a new technology can replace an old one, one of the biggest issues is often implementing the operating systems to allow the change. But one of the biggest advantages with LiFi is that most of the system used – the LED light bulbs – are in common use around the world. From lighting homes to businesses and uses in street and public lighting, these bulbs are already commonplace and therefore adapting them to use LiFi would be a relatively easy task.
Another reason that LiFi is a great candidate to replace WiFi is the security benefits of the system. Currently, a relatively low skilled hacker can sit outside a building and gain access to a network if it is unsecured or even with a moderate level of security. This is because radio waves pass through the walls of the building and can be picked up outside. However, LiFi doesn’t work like this – it cannot pass through a wall so therefore, the signal cannot be picked up by someone outside.
This security benefit is the reason that government departments and big name companies are already looking at the system and its implementation. Millions are spent every year on security and dealing with hackers so any system that lessens this issue is welcomed around the world.
Getting access to the internet around the world is something many big minds are working on and LiFi has a major advantage over WiFi to achieve this. Because light is everywhere, the data it sends is also everywhere and much easier to send between points than radio signals. This would mean that the whole world could be quickly and easily accessing the internet in the near future via the system.
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