Li-Fi, a light-based wireless communication technology, has been researched for over 20 years. While a new standard, 802.11bb, is in preparation, experts expect to see consumer applications in the next few years, and even within 2 to 3 years on smartphones.
Despite having been around for over two decades, Li-Fi really came into the limelight in 2011 when the term was officially introduced. Since then, substantial research has been conducted to improve and optimize this promising technology.
In 2019, the French startup Oledcomm, a pioneer in this field, marketed Li-Fi products for the general public, including desk lamps and ceiling lights. These products have demonstrated impressive performance, achieving 60 Mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upload with only 3 ms of latency. But, as you can imagine, for the moment, Li-Fi has not yet found its audience.
But what sets Li-Fi apart?
The main characteristic of Li-Fi is to be directional. When installed on the ceiling, only people directly below can receive the signal. So people in an adjacent office, across the street, or even downstairs can’t intercept it. This greatly increases securitywhich makes it attractive for some sensitive applications.
However, since the Li-Fi signal is limited to an illumination area and cannot pass through walls, its range is shorter than Wi-Fiusually 10 meters compared to 30 to 46 meters for Wi-Fi. This restriction can be seen both as a limitation and a strength in terms of security.
German computer scientist Harald Haas, widely considered one of the pioneers of Li-Fi, is optimistic about its future. According to him, we could see the first Li-Fi-enabled smartphones in two to three years. Negotiations are already underway with innovative mobile manufacturers to integrate this technology into their devices.
Harald Haas said: Instead of a third or fourth camera, it would be a real innovation “. Rumors have even mentioned that the Chinese manufacturer Oppo is about to launch a smartphone capable of capturing a Li-Fi signal of up to 8 or 10 Gb / s. In theory, Li-Fi can be as fast as Wi-Fi, reaching transmission speeds of up to 224 Gb/s, although these speeds are currently only achievable under laboratory conditions for the moment.
However, Li-Fi presents technical challenges. The sensor must have a 24 degree field of view and a direct line of sight to the transmitter to function properly. This requires special attention to the alignment of the device, which can be a drawback in certain situations.
For Li-Fi to become a mainstream communication technology, the establishment of a new standard is necessary. This standard, called 802.11bbis being developed by a working group at theInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The adoption of this standard is planned for this year.
Limited use, but a supplement that could prove effective
Although the promise of Li-Fi is undeniable, it is crucial to understand that, due to its characteristics, its application will nevertheless remain limited. The limited range of Li-Fi, its inability to pass through walls, and the need for a direct line of sight between the transmitter and the receiver are factors that hinder its large-scale deployment.
However, far from being a total substitute for Wi-Fi or 4G/5G, Li-Fi could in fact prove to be a very effective complement to these existing technologies. Its ability to offer higher connection speeds in confined areas could be very useful in environments such as offices, hospitals, or industries where data security is a priority.