Author(s): Ben Wood
This week, Signify, formerly Philips Lighting, launched one of the first commercial Light Fidelity, or Li-Fi, solutions. Li-Fi provides broadband Internet through light waves rather than radio waves, using LEDs to transmit data. Signify has been trialling its Li-Fi service, called Trulifi, for more than a year. This is one of the more significant real-world commercial deployments of the technology so far, and will be a test of its viability (see Philips Starts Li-Fi Trials).
Li-Fi has been around for several years, with promises of fast and secure data transfer. It does appear to be a good fit for locations where radio frequency-based wireless systems struggle or are simply not allowed, such as industrial plants and hospitals. Li-Fi also holds potential as an offload technology, easing the load of congested Wi-Fi and cellular networks.
Signify's Trulifi service uses optical wireless transceiver technology built into Philips light bulbs. Unlike traditional wireless standards such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LTE and 5G, all of which rely on radio signals, Trulifi uses light waves to enable secure two-way wireless communication "at speeds far above most conventional workplace wireless technologies". To receive Li-Fi signals, users will need a USB access key for laptops and computers. Once connected, Signify says that Trulifi offers wireless connectivity at speeds of up to 150 Mbps.
But with only two customers at present, commercial roll-out of Trulifi is very limited. Globalworth, an institutional investor and office landlord in Poland and Romania, and Claerhout Communication Campus, a Belgian marketing and communication agency, are now employing Signify's service on a small scale.
Signify says there are three attractive reasons for enterprises to use Li-Fi in conjunction with Wi-Fi: speed, security and the ability to use Li-Fi in environments where radio communications could interfere with sensitive equipment, like intensive care units in hospitals. The company points out that schools can also benefit from Li-Fi because of the growing number of Internet-connected devices in classrooms. Installing Li-Fi alongside Wi-Fi can create additional bandwidth to reduce network congestion. And in the future, this could allow students to stream educational videos and download resources with seamless connectivity.
Signify says that Li-Fi has the capability to support big data, and technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Given the potential of increased security and offloading, Trulifi certainly has our attention. We believe there are applications where Li-Fi could, at a minimum, augment traditional communication technologies. And most of all, it's something different.