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How will pureLifi’s new method of wireless communication change how we access the internet?

WiFi - LiFi House illustration

Imagine a world where every light could connect you to the internet. The lights that illuminate our offices, homes, cars and streets connecting us to high-speed, secure data – and to each other.

This is what LiFi does.

The term LiFi, or light fidelity, was coined by pureLiFi co-founder Professor Harald Haas when he demonstrated LiFi for the first time at a TED Global talk in 2011.

Since the LiFi TED Global talk, wireless communications industries have started to realise they're facing a real challenge. The world is consuming 60% more wireless data every year. Radio frequencies used for technologies such as WiFi cannot sustain this level of growth.

We're quickly facing a spectrum crunch. LiFi can open up 1000 times more spectrum and help not only alleviate the crunch, but unleash unprecedented data and bandwidth.

Professor Harnew Haas, Pure LiFi

LiFi is bidirectional, full duplex (data can transmitted in two directions at the same time) and fully networked wireless communications using LED lights. It repurposes the same light we use to illuminate our homes, offices and streets to provide high-speed, secure wireless communications.

With LiFi, data is transmitted by altering the intensity of the light, which is then received by a photo-sensitive detector, and the light signal is transformed into digital form. Data is then transmitted back to the access point in the ceiling, allowing for fast, full-duplex communications.

Creating some cool tech

LiFi offers additional benefits, including:

  • Security – Light can be contained. Light cannot travel through walls, which means a LiFi signal can be secured in a physical space. pureLiFi’s technology also enables additional control as data can be directed from one device to another. Users can see where data is going, so there is less need for additional security.
  • No interference – Radio frequency technologies such as WiFi are vulnerable to interference from a wide range devices such as cordless phones, microwaves and nearby WiFi networks. LiFi signals can be defined by area of illumination, which means interference is much simpler to avoid and even stop all together. This also means LiFi can be used in areas where you can’t use radio frequency technologies, such as hospitals, power plants and airplanes.
  • Data density  Data density offers a greater user experience as it reduces the need to share the wireless bandwidth with other users. LiFi can achieve around 1,000 times the data density of WiFi, offering more data per square metre. This is an important factor for wireless efficiency.
  • Efficiency – LiFi allows the repurposing of light for communications as it uses the same infrastructure. LED lights are already efficient, and the visible light spectrum is plentiful, unlicensed and free to use.
  • Smart lighting – Any private or public lighting including street lamps can be used to provide LiFi hotspots. The same communications infrastructure can be used to monitor and control lighting and data.
  • Location services – LiFi systems are fully networked and each LiFi enabled light has its own IP address. This means advanced geo fencing can be set up simply in a LiFi network.

Edinburgh-based pureLiFi has developed LiFi-X, the world's first smallest, fastest and most secure LiFi system. It offers an experience that’s similar to but more secure than existing wireless technologies such as WiFi. It’s no wonder that they won the “Cool Tech” Award at Mobile World Congress 2017 – this exciting technology could transform the future of wireless communications.

A supportive environment in Scotland

As a university spin-out, pureLiFi has found that the innovative research and development taking place at Scottish universities, including the University of Edinburgh, Strathclyde, Herriot Watt, St Andrews, and Glasgow, provides them with the expertise that they need.

Alistair Banham, CEO of pureLiFi, says, “LiFi could introduce a new paradigm in the battle to find new bandwidth to cope with rising numbers of devices that connect wirelessly to the internet. LiFi is a technology that will create new markets and merge two huge industries – lighting and communications. This will result not only in new far-reaching commercial opportunities, but also enhance the way we live in this mobile and wireless world.

"SDI has provided invaluable assistance, helping us to access new opportunities such as events like Mobile World Congress and new contacts beyond our borders.”

Find out more about tech innovations in Scotland