Are Light Bulbs Taking Over the Internet?

We wrote an article a few years ago about “li-fi,” an up-and-coming technology that uses light bulbs to transmit a wireless signal. This technology has come a long way since then, and today it’s one of the craziest (and coolest) innovations in the lighting industry! Scientists across the globe (primarily in the UK and China) have been developing this lighting-based data transmission, which could revolutionize the way we connect to the internet.

LED Light Bulb

Conventional wi-fi is emitted using mirowaves or radio frequencies. The great conundrum of physics is that light travels both in particles and waves, a property which also makes it compatible with wavelength data transmission. Although li-fi has been in development for some years now, the most notable recent accomplishment belongs to Chinese professor Chi Nan, who managed to construct a DIY lighting-based data transmitter from basic retail components.

Chi’s project, which was funded by her university, cost around $500,000 – an indication that this product isn’t quite ready for the consumer market yet. But Chi was able to achieve connection speeds of up to 150 Mbps, and she has hopes that these devices will be able to reach up to 350 Gbps.

Some of the benefits of li-fi are described in a Wired article:

One of the advantages of Li-Fi is its ability to function in electromagnetic-sensitive areas such as in aircraft or nuclear power plants, without causing interference. Additionally, Li-Fi signals cannot travel through walls, a welcome feature for many users who wish to increase their digital privacy, although this comes with its obvious drawbacks, such as difficulty in creating “blanket” wireless coverage.

At the moment, li-fi is very much still in an experimental stage, though entrance into the consumer market is certainly not far off. Developers are working hard to miniaturize the technology to make this concept more marketable. It’s possible that in a few years li-fi will be the new normal when it comes to wireless connectivity.

What do you think of li-fi? Let us know in the comments!

Deanna Alrutz

Deanna was our E-Commerce Marketing Specialist in 2013.