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LI-FI Technology (Light Fidelity): What It Is, How It Works

Faster and safer, Li-Fi, Light Fidelity, or the latest generation technology for wireless data transmission through light, could support, if not replace, WI-FI and 5G. The term LI-FI, an acronym for  Light Fidelity, indicates the latest technology for wireless data transmission through light. Already today, the number of devices using the radio band for data transmission is several billion. Therefore, it is likely that, shortly, LI-FI technology could support, if not replace, WI-FI and 5G.

What Is LI-FI Technology?

LI-FI is a very high-speed data transmission method that follows a double trajectory generating a binary code; instead of radio waves, it uses light. This technology is not new to the wireless data exchange landscape; think of the remote control operation (the English term remote control makes the concept very well), which sends infrared inputs to the TV or stereo. As for the wi-fi and the LI-FI technology, the appropriate infrastructures are needed, which consist of simple LED light pulse receivers.

LI-FI: How It Works

The operation of the LI-FI technology is based on a receiver that captures, through an optical sensor, the light signals, which are subsequently decoded and transmitted to software. The latter transforms the impulses into electrical signals, read by devices such as PCs, tablets and smartphones. In theory, any place could be ideal for receiving light signals since an electrical system is sufficient; the LI-FI movement would cover public or private buildings.

Data transmission takes place through an LED light source, which has a modem inside it: this has the function of proportioning the light at such a speed that the human eye cannot perceive it. The light is then picked up by a USB device (or an adapter compatible with LI-FI technology), which, inserted in the PC or portable device, transmits the data back to the lighting device through an infrared connection.

In the next step, the data is encoded by specially processed software, transforming it into high-frequency light inputs. The LED lamp is used as a router; it produces thousands of light pulses per second, with very high-speed data transmission.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of LI-FI

There are numerous advantages of LI-FI, so many companies invest in research and development on this technology. Let’s see, below, the main points in favour:

  1. Safety: the advantages of LI-FI include that of data transmission in total security, thanks to the light pulses of the LED lights. The safe connection is guaranteed by the direction of the data flow, which is limited to the room where the connection is established through the LI-FI router. This aspect is of fundamental importance since it would, in itself, be sufficient to solve the problem relating to intrusions to the network from the outside. The only way to violate the system would be to be physically present in the environment where the light source is located;
  2. high data transmission speed: a good quality light source would guarantee a very high-speed connection and much more stable than the one via wi-fi;
  3. Elimination of the “bottlenecks” typical of traditional broadband: one of the most advantageous factors of LI-FI would concern the absence of those criticalities that pertain to the wi-fi connection, especially the bottlenecks encountered by data. The ever-increasing demand for data transmission makes the electromagnetic field increasingly “crowded”. Experts on the subject affirm that this, sooner or later, is destined to run out, and therefore it seems appropriate to turn to an alternative method of wireless data transmission.
  4. Safety for human health: according to supporters of this ultramodern data transmission methodology, this is much safer for health than the current techniques. For example, although it has not been formalized in any way, not even by the WHO, that wi-fi can cause undesirable effects, we must always consider that we are in the presence of electromagnetic waves. Thinking of environments such as hospitals, nursing homes and environments where babies and children are present, the LI-FI technology would allow wireless data transmission in a harmless way for health, since radio frequencies are absent and, consequently, also electromagnetic fields;
  5. long-distance coverage ;
  6. Extremely low price – there is no need to implement infrastructure, which is already present in power grids. The only change to be made would be the replacement of the bulbs with LED ones, with reduced energy consumption.
  7. Reduced energy impact: by way of example, it is quantified that the spectrum of the LI-FI technique is over 10,000 times higher than that of wi-fi. The systems necessary for the implementation of the LI-FI technology are largely sustainable since they do not promote the so-called electromagnetic pollution and are well suited to a contemporary green vision;
  8. the simplicity of system adaptation: existing electrical systems will only have to be equipped with LED lights;
  9. Precise geolocation: a peculiarity of the LI-FI is that it arrives even where the GPS does not; therefore, the position of the users can be identified with almost millimetre precision. This also allows an extremely reliable analysis of the access of analytical data concerning the use of products by users. Retail is the main area of ​​this functionality since the more accurate the data relating to consumer movements, the more targeted the marketing strategies can be.

The Disadvantages Of LI-FI Technology

Alongside the positive aspects that characterize the LI-FI technology, the negative ones must also be recalled, which can be summarized as follows:

  1. limitation of the reception field: the most penalizing characteristic of the LI-FI technology concerns the interruption of the reception field of the data which, being transmitted directionally, are interrupted by walls, furniture, and any object that could constitute an obstacle ;
  2. However, the impossibility of use with the light of this problem is easy to resolve since it is possible to decrease the light intensity significantly. In this way, the optical effect will be that of the light off, but the LED lamp will remain on, ensuring continuity of operation;
  3. Difficulty in receiving the signal in particular atmospheric conditions: the question concerns the position in outdoor environments. Factors such as smog and rain could affect the movement, reducing its efficiency.

Analyzing the aspects listed above, it is clear that the positive elements far outweigh the negative ones. For research and development, studies for solutions and alternatives are underway. In particular, LI-FI technology’s very promising prospects give a glimpse of an innovative and attractive future.

The Application Areas Of LI-FI Technology

Regarding the fields of application of LI-FI technology, they range in all sectors, from retail to the military world, up to the medical or museum fields. For example, in the retail sector, LI-FI allows the sending of light signals to consumers who are viewing a product displayed in the store, providing useful information on the main features, functioning, and the offers available. In the museum sector, LI-FI technology allows an interactive experience with visitors, guided by a light signal that indicates the most evocative and significant elements of the works through videos and images, which make the exhibition or event truly unique. 

Other fields of application are real “construction sites”, in the sense that, being a technology in full development, there are still many areas in which it can be implemented. For example, through LI-FI, data transmission in automotive and even underwater contexts is the subject of research by companies that strongly believe in this project and its enormous potential.


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