What happened to the LiFi technology

LiFi: This technology is 100 times faster than WiFi

Downloading 224 gigabytes of data in one second - impossible? LiFi makes it possible: Here you can find out how wireless data transmission works with light, what it can and cannot do better than WiFi and whether the technology is also available for your home.

  1. This is how data transmission works with light
  2. WiFi versus LiFi
  3. Disadvantages of LiFi technology
  4. The first LiFi systems for private use

With a transmission rate of up to 224 gigabytes per second, LiFi is the new star in wireless data transmission. Those of you who have never heard of high-speed technology will be surprised how long "Light Fidelity" has been around. However, the big breakthrough is still a long way off.

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Back in 2011, inventor Harald Haas, currently a professor at the University of Edinburgh, explained the functionality and potential of LiFi technology in a TED talk. Since then, the technology of wireless data transmission with light has developed further and has become marketable.

You can read here how data transmission works with light, what LiFi can do better than WiFi, what difficulties there are anyway and where you can already buy the first LiFi systems for your home.

This is how data transmission works with light

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You can't see it directly, but the air around us is full of floating data. Radio towers, smartphones or radios work using radio frequencies that transmit data invisibly.

Since the beginning of the 2000s, however, experts have been speaking of an impending "spectrum crunch", because the space for free radio frequencies is dwindling. The main reason is the increasing demand for radio frequencies. However, this is a finite resource. So a solution is needed.

One approach could now be the transmission of data via LEDs. You know LED as a light source. They are energy-saving, dimmable and have a particularly long service life. How the light-emitting diodes now also ensure that you can transfer and download data faster, sounds amazing and at the same time plausible.

The difference to radio waves

The light spectrum that is visible in the form of light rays and used for wireless data transmission is around 10,000 times larger than the entire radio frequency spectrum. With the steadily growing amounts of data to be transferred, this is a real advantage.

In the future, the significantly larger light spectrum could clear the way for the 5G standard and again create more capacities in the radio frequency spectrum.

LiFi: Wireless data transmission via light beams

LiFi uses visible light as a medium to transmit data. For this to work, it needs two components:

  1. A photodiode: It acts as a transmitting and receiving device (transceiver) that receives and sends back light signals.
  2. A light source: They are light-emitting light-emitting diodes, i.e. LEDs that are equipped with a chip and can process signals.

LEDs are semiconductors that modulate the current supplied. This creates light that is also modulated again. Data is fed into the LED light source and sent to the photodiode at breakneck speed. The received data is then converted into a binary data stream, which you can then perceive in the form of videos or audio files.

WiFi versus LiFi

The LiFi technology seems to be way ahead of WiFi. Fewer interference problems, a larger area of ​​application or less interference overall are some of the advantages of wireless data transmission with light. Why LiFi has not yet caught on is due to several factors.

Disadvantages of LiFi technology

At first glance, LiFi seems to be a solution for the impending "spectrum crunch". Nevertheless, there are disadvantages that (still) stand in the way of the shining breakthrough:

  1. Missing infrastructure: One of the biggest disadvantages of LiFi is the lack of infrastructure. Since this is still a fairly new technology at the moment, it is practically not yet really available.
  2. The light must remain on: In order for data transmission with the aid of light to work, the light must remain switched on. It can be dimmed so much that it is hardly visible to the human eye. If there is no possibility to dim the light, however, it could become problematic.
  3. Interference from other light sources: How well wireless data transmission with LED light works depends heavily on whether other light sources such as sunlight also illuminate the photodiode.
  4. Limited range: The range of a LiFi router is just ten meters. For better connections you would therefore have to install several routers. That means additional acquisition and installation costs.
  5. Slow internet could remain a reality: LiFi can transfer data faster. However, if the internet speed offered by the provider is very slow, even LiFi cannot exploit the full potential. For countries with slow internet speeds, an extensive LiFi network would therefore be superfluous. LiFi technology can only be properly promoted through cooperation between various industries.

The first LiFi systems for private use

Even if LiFi technology is still in its infancy, some large companies have already equipped their offices with LiFi technology. In the summer of 2019, Hamburger SV even implemented the new form of data transmission in the press area of ​​the local Volkpark Stadium. Since then, reporters have been able to edit and upload photos faster and send their reports securely on well-attended match days.

How quickly LiFi will arrive on the mainstream market is still uncertain. According to lifi.co, experts suspect that it could take between five and 15 years for the general public to benefit from wireless high-speed data transmission.

These manufacturers offer LiFi for your home

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You too can bring LiFi home: Developers such as Oledcomm or pureLiFi have already brought the first devices onto the market that you can place as a lamp on the desk in the study or stick in the laptop in the form of a stick.

The price for a LiFi lamp is still quite tough: the high-speed lamp costs the equivalent of 899 euros and orders can only be placed by email. It will therefore take a few years before LiFi technology becomes accessible and affordable for the masses.