Using light to transmit data is nothing new; it’s how your TV’s remote control operates. But remote controls use infrared, which has severe limitations in distance and throughput.
Li-Fi was first introduced in 2011 at a TEDGlobal conference by Professor Harald Haas, Chair of Mobile Communications at the University of Edinburgh and co-founder/chief scientific officer of pureLi-Fi Ltd., the company trying to bring Li-Fi to the market.
Haas says he was inspired to create Li-Fi because of the spectrum crunch. He said he was working for Siemens on 4G when he realized the RF spectrum wasn’t enough for things like multimedia. Since then he developed the world’s first Li-Fi dongle, and partnered with French lighting manufacturer Lucibel to make the first fully integrated Li-Fi luminaire, which was shown at this year’s Mobile World Congress.
“Li-Fi is where Wi-Fi is fifteen years ago, and in five to ten years, Li-Fi will be as ubiquitous as Wi-Fi is now,” he claims.
Anand Oswal, senior vice president for engineering in the enterprise networking group at Cisco, says Cisco considers Li-Fi an “exciting, up-and-coming technology with a lot of potential.” Cisco’s strategy is to build out the Li-Fi technology and eventually develop products, but he adds “we’re still in an exploratory phase. Cisco has not made any decisions on the products and solutions with regards to Li-Fi.”
A potential area of integration for Cisco is its Digital Building program, a suite of solutions in partnership with vendors including Philips, Microchip, Cree and Molex that leverages Cisco’s Power over Ethernet (PoE) and Universal Power over Ethernet (UPoE) innovations to power enterprise lighting systems.
“The capability to convert every light in the enterprise into a medium of wireless communication is a very natural evolution of this solution,” says Oswal. Cisco is collaborating with partners to explore how to integrate the technology seamlessly into Cisco’s wireless infrastructure. “That would allow the Li-Fi technology to leverage the decades of innovations in the Wi-Fi domain.”
One group very interested in Li-Fi is retailers, who see it as a potential replacement for beacon technology, says Jerry Johnson, president and CEO of the Energy Management Collaborative, an energy controls and IoT solution provider. He also has seen interest from government, airports, and owners of commercial spaces and buildings who want to supplement Wi-Fi or use Li-Fi to communicate with people in meeting rooms.
EMC plans to be a reseller of Li-Fi light bulbs nationwide and has already deployed them in 80 test sites.