Every day, the amount of data we produce and made available to us through the internet is unfathomable. There are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day at our current pace, but that pace is only accelerating with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). This is what makes everything virtually accessible in just a click these days.
To access and download this data is another problem however as it requires an internet connection that can handle the amount of data we need to access and download. The current and future growth of wireless data traffic will mean that the radio frequency spectrum will not provide sufficient resources by 2025. As the demand arises for faster and more stable internet connection, new technologies are being looked upon and developed which will match how fast data is being uploaded. This is where LiFi comes in.
LiFi is a new technology developed to address this need and with LiFi, your light bulb is essentially your router. It uses common household LED light bulbs to enable data transfer, boasting speeds of up to 224 GB per second. Considering that the fastest WiFi in the 60 GHz frequency band, WiGig, can achieve a maximum data rate of 7 GB per second, LiFi speed is 100 times faster than that! Not only that, but the rate per square meter or area data rate of a LiFi network can be 1,000 times higher than the area data rate of a WiFi network.
To explain how this is even possible, LiFi is a wireless optical networking technology that uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for data transmission. LiFi is designed to use LED light bulbs similar to those currently in use in many energy-conscious homes and offices. The way it works is that it uses Visible Light Communication (VLC) instead of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum. Since the visible light spectrum is 1,000 times larger than the entire 300 GHz of radio, microwave, and mm-wave radio spectrum, it’s just a huge untapped resource waiting to be discovered.
Compared to the existing technologies using radio frequency or RF, LiFi speed is affected very little by interference. In fact, the more light you put in a room, the faster your connection will be. The reason behind this is that unlike radio waves which uses an unlicensed radio spectrum of 5 Gigahertz (GHz) and is in short supply, LiFi operates on a spectrum 10,000 times larger than that of radio waves.
You can also think of it as an advanced form of Morse code wherein the light from LEDs can ‘flicker’ very quickly to write and transmit secure binary data. But with the case of LiFi, its invisible to the human eye due to the speeds of how the light flickers sending a huge amount of data over high speeds.
The Speed of Light
What makes light so capable of carrying big chunks of data over high speeds? The speed of light has been known as a universal constant in Physics and in theory, nothing is faster than the speed of light. Albert Einstein, the Father of Modern Physics, laid down a theory of special relativity that sets of the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second (300 million meters per second). To give an idea of what you can do with this speed, you could travel at the speed of light around the equator, you could go around the Earth 7.5 times in one second. Although some scientists tried to argue that there are other things faster than the speed of light, the evidence gathered still point to the speed of light being the fastest.
LiFi or Light Fidelity took the opportunity and created a system that would take advantage of the speed of light to receive codes from a light source and transmit data to a receiver as the name implies. Now imagine utilizing this speed as a medium in transmitting data all over the world and combining two basic functionalities: illumination and wireless data transmission. With LiFi speed, the possibilities are endless!
How Fast is LiFi Exactly?
In order to come up with the approximate numbers, we need to dissect how and what factors affect LiFi speed. We can look into the speed, spectrum and availability and the kind of light which will be used as these are main components of LiFi.
As mentioned earlier, with the speed of light reaching 300 million meters per second, we can rest assured that the transmission of data is maximized to its full potential. Compared to that of RF wherein there are limitations to how the data flows through.
The spectrum of VLC is also a huge factor in making LiFi an efficient alternative as it is 1,000 times larger than the entire 300 GHz of radio, microwave and mm-wave radio spectrum as this will lessen the chances of interference due to varying frequencies. Thus, a continuous flow of data.
In terms of availability, you won’t have to worry about leaving the lights turned on all the time as LiFi enabled LED lights can be dimmed low enough that a room will appear dark and still transmit data. There is consistent performance between 10 and 90 percent illumination. Currently, LiFi can still effectively perform at light levels down to 60 Lux.
Lastly, the kind of light can also affect LiFi speed. Data rates as high as 3.5 gigabytes (GB) per second using a single blue LED, or 1.7 gigabytes (GB) per second with white light, have been demonstrated by researchers. This new technology can, in theory, offer speeds of up to 224 GB per second.
Looking at it now, LiFi as the new WiFi seems like a grand idea that might look amazing in theory only, but scientists and researchers around the world are field-testing LiFi in office and industrial settings and reporting data transmission rates at 1GB per second. With the numbers presented here, there is a high probability that LiFi speed will exceed the speed of other internet connections available to us which will then help solve our demand for big data.