The New York Times published a fascinating article yesterday describing a technology called light-based data transmission. It’s also known as Li-Fi, and the name fits: Using light to transmit data wirelessly may very well replace Wi-Fi in the near future.
Last week, at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh, professor Harald Haas introduced his Li-Fi prototype. On stage, he used an LED table lamp to transmit a video of blooming flowers to the screen behind him. When Haas placed his hand under the light to block it from the receiver, the video paused.
According to the NYT, the field of visible light communication has been around for quite awhile, but commercial interest is building rapidly due to the increasing affordability of LED lighting, making light-based technology more affordable in turn.
There are a number of reasons why Li-Fi is innovative by nature:
Light-based data transmission technology is attractive because it allows wireless communication without the use of radio gear, which can be dangerous in places like oil platforms (where it can cause sparks) and underwater (where the salt conducts electricity), or on planes (where it can interfere with other radio equipment). In addition, transmissions can be stopped simply by blocking the light, and thus can be stopped by walls, so there is less risk of data leaking out of a house or office.