Remember dial-up? How about those AOL discs we used to get in the mail? It wasn’t so long ago that waiting and waiting and then waiting some more was just part of the whole interwebs experience. Then internet connections began speeding up and before you knew it, we had access to Wi-Fi (local area wireless computer networking) just about anywhere from just about any electronic device.
Although it varies based on location and device type, for the most part Wi-Fi these days is pretty fast. But imagine a world with a technology that’s 100 times faster. Imagine if all you had to do to download a huge file in seconds was to turn on a light! We at Gliffy like being at the forefront of new technologies and all the shiny new things they bring. So the idea of 100 times faster download speeds as a result of harnessing light is thrilling.
The most exciting part? This future is now closer to reality, thanks to a new technology called Li-Fi or light fidelity. It was first imagined by Harold Haas, a professor at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, who gave a TED Talk on it in 2011. Since then, a lot of research has been done, bringing this futuristic technology closer to fruition.
How It Works
Surprisingly, the technology is actually quite simple. Li-Fi uses the visible light spectrum, as opposed to wireless frequencies, for something called "visible light communication" or VLC. According to Professor Haas, all we would need to do to enable this technology in our homes would be to add a microchip to any LED light bulb. The data would get transmitted over Li-Fi by flickering LED lights at super fast speeds. (A note to those excited by the idea of a perma disco in their house—the flickering would be much too fast for the human eye to register. Sorry!)
In November 2015, an Estonian startup revealed that it had been testing Li-Fi in office and commercial environments. These first experiments yielded speeds of about 1 GBps, which is nearly 100 times faster than the current average Internet speed. And there are other benefits besides speed.
Li-Fi is more secure, because the signal, which is based on light, cannot go through walls. Of course, because of that limitation, it wouldn't be possible to have a purely Li-Fi network. However, researchers believe that we could use some combination of more traditional connections and Li-Fi in the future to create faster networks than have ever been imagined before.
Li-Fi would use the same amount of power as what it currently takes to turn on your lights at home, making it more energy-efficient than the current modem and wireless router setup. It would also be safe in environments where radio frequencies can interfere with important equipment, such as hospitals and airports. Li-Fi could also be more easily used in water, making it easier to explore oceanic depths.
We live in an exciting time of rapidly evolving new technologies, which also tend to open eyes and doors to new possibilities. Because Li-Fi will impact so many of us, in addition to faster download speeds, it has the potential to bring with it a host of new ideas, breakthroughs and discoveries and that is truly exciting.
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