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Tech Spot #31: Li-Fi, London, United Kingdom

Monday 30 Nov 2015

Tech Spot #31: Beginning to see the light

Tech Spot #31: Li-Fi by WAN Editorial in London, United Kingdom
Tech Spot #31: Li-Fi by WAN Editorial in London, United Kingdom
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A new innovation has created li-fi which can deliver internet access 100 times faster than traditional wi-fi  

A new method of delivering data that uses the visible spectrum rather than radio waves is set to revolutionise the way we use the internet. Li-fi uses ordinary LED lights to transmit data wirelessly around the home. A microchip is fixed to a LED lightbulb, causing it to flicker millions of times a second. This in turn creates a rapid stream of binary code that is invisible to the human eye.

Li-fi can deliver internet access 100 times faster than traditional wi-fi, offering speeds of up to 1Gbps (gigabit per second). It requires a light source, such as a standard LED bulb, an internet connection and a photo detector.

It was recently tested by Estonian firm Velmenni, in Tallinn who used a li-fi-enabled light bulb to transmit data at speeds of 1Gbps. Laboratory tests have shown theoretical speeds of up to 224Gbps.

It was tested in an office, to allow workers to access the internet and in an industrial space, where it provided a smart lighting solution.

Speaking to the International Business Times, chief executive Deepak Solanki said that the technology could reach consumers "within three to four years".

The term li-fi was first coined by Prof Harald Haas from Edinburgh University, who demonstrated the technology at a Ted (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference in 2011.

His talk, which has now been watched nearly two million times, showed an LED lamp streaming video.

Prof Haas described a future when billions of light bulbs could become wireless hotspots.

Commenting on the new technology and how it would work in a city like London Professor Haas said: “The problem is there are too many people in a too confined space and everyone wants a share of the bandwidth, which is very limited. In London we have lights on the Tube and in shopping malls and all these lights could provide 10,000 times more capacity than we have with wi-fi. It’s a matter of using a big resource that is free for data communication.

“You could equip London’s street lights with Li-Fi, you can have it on the Underground and the airport. Piccadilly Circus is made of LEDs and these LEDs are the devices you use for Li-Fi.”

One of the big advantages of li-fi is the fact that, unlike wi-fi, it does not interfere with other radio signals, so could be utilised on aircraft and in other places where interference is an issue.

While the spectrum for radio waves is in short supply, the visible light spectrum is 10,000 times larger, meaning it is unlikely to run out any time soon.

But the technology also has its drawbacks - most notably the fact that it cannot be deployed outdoors in direct sunlight, because that would interfere with its signal.

Neither can the technology travel through walls so initial use is likely to be limited to places where it can be used to supplement wi-fi networks, such as in congested urban areas or places where wi-fi is not safe, such as hospitals.

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Nick Myall

News Editor

WAN Editorial

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