You may soon be able to connect to the internet nothing more than a simple lamp. Li-Fi, or “light fidelity”, is a new wireless technology that just premiered at the Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile tech fair – in Barcelona. French start-up Oledcomm says the new technology is 100 times faster than conventional Wi-Fi.
So how does this new light-based system work? It all hinges on the unique properties of LED lamps. Though you’ve probably never noticed it, the bulbs flicker on and off thousands of times a second, a rate imperceptible to the human eye but one that generates a frequency readable by machines. This frequency is incredibly fast, especially compared to the radio waves used for conventional wireless internet.
Laboratory tests have found that Li-Fi can transmit information at almost unbelievable speeds, over 200 gigabytes per second. That’s fast enough to download 23 DVDs’ worth of information in the literal blink of an eye.
Despite the speed, there are some drawbacks to this new technology. For one thing, the light has to be visible for the signal to work, so it can’t pass through walls the way Wi-Fi can. You also need to place your device directly in the light, which limits the physical space where it’s effective. There are, however, some advantages to the limited scope of the signal. Unlike Wi-Fi, which can potentially broadcast your information far and wide, Li-Fi signals can be directed at a single user, which in turn helps keep their activity more private. And because it’s easy to restrict, it could be used in locations like hospitals or schools.
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So when will you be able to try Li-Fi for yourself? Right now, it’s being used in French museums and shopping malls, and it has been tested in public settings in Belgium, Estonia, and India. If you don’t live in one of those countries, for now you’re probably out of luck. Companies like Philips and Apple have already expressed an interest in the technology, and there are rumors it may be included in the iPhone 7.
Via Discovery News
Photos via Shutterstock (1,2)