I can see ol’ Tom Edison smiling at this next generation lightbulb, a kind of coy smile that might say he’s not that surprised. After all, his original light bulb technology gave birth to vacuum tubes and made radio and TV possible, so why not use that technology for other things.
Today we use Wi-Fi to access [radio waves] and download all sorts of information; but the amount of electromagnetic spectrum devoted to this is quite narrow … sort of like driving down a crowded one-lane road, when what we need is an eight -lane super highway. Light waves are another thing altogether, holding the promise of that super highway. Light waves can easily carry 10,000 times more volume than the currently allocated radio wave spectrum.
When properly equipped, an LED lightbulb can move information and lots of it via light. The key is imbedding a signal processor into the LEDs. Very short LED flashes of light do the data transmission. You don’t even see the flash and it does not affect the bulb’s light quality.
In development since the early 2000’s, Li-Fi technology puts the upper speed for data transmission at 100 gigabits per second, about 15 times faster than the fastest Wi-Fi; and the Li-Fi is more secure too as the download does not pass through walls where it could be intercepted.
With Li-Fi, every LED light bulb can become an ultrafast wireless router or hotspot in the home or office. All your smart appliances can also be data-nourished from your LEDs as well. It’s another dimension of what we call the Internet of Things. Check out the videos embedded in the Editor’s Deep Dive section below-way cool to see and imagine the potential of this technology.
Harald Haas, who teaches at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, coined the term “Li-Fi” at his TED Global Talk where he introduced the idea of “Wireless data from every light”. He is Chairman of Mobile Communications at the University of Edinburgh and co-founder of pureLiFi. In October 2011, companies and industry groups formed the Li-Fi Consortium to promote and foster the advancement and implementation of this exciting technology. Russian, Chinese and Mexican interests are now active in this technology as well. Standards-making activities are also kicking in. The stage is set for some very interesting applications and large scale demos.
So what do you think, Tom!
Editor’s Deep Dive
Thomas Edison said, “If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves …”
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