Philips Starts Li-Fi Trials

Company to Provide Broadband Connectivity Using LED Lighting

Li-Fi is back in the spotlight after Philips Lighting, best known for its light bulbs and for being one of the pioneers of smart lighting, announced plans to extend its portfolio in the connectivity space with its Light Fidelity services, otherwise known as Li-Fi. The company is testing its new network with Icade, a French real estate investment business that’s one of the world’s first companies to use Li-Fi to provide broadband Internet at its offices in Paris.

We had previously written about the potential of Li-Fi, pointing out that it will take time for the technology to find applications (see Li-Fi the Disruptor? Not So Fast.).

Li-Fi is similar to Wi-Fi, but uses light waves rather than radio waves to transmit data. Philips says that its service will deliver speeds of 30 Mbps without causing LED light bulbs to flicker or dim. According to the company, that speed is fast enough to allow users to simultaneously stream a number of high-definition videos while taking a video call.

Philips Li-Fi technology works through LED luminaires equipped with built-in modems that modulate the light. The light is detected by a Li-Fi USB dongle that is plugged into a device, and the USB then returns data to the luminaire through an infrared link. Users will need a Li-Fi USB dongle in their computers to access Li-Fi, but with enough traction, the technology could become embedded into laptops and eventually other products.

One real benefit of Li-Fi is that it can be deployed in areas where Wi-Fi connectivity may be weak. For example, whereas radio frequencies may not be able to reach underground areas and can interfere with equipment, lighting can be placed just about anywhere. Another potential advantage is that it could become possible to provide coverage just by changing a light bulb, rather than having to install another Wi-Fi access point. Furthermore, as Philips highlights, Li-Fi can be used in situations that need a higher level of security, as light can’t pass through solid walls. For the technology to work, it requires line of sight.

Li-Fi has the long-term potential to complement, rather than compete with existing access technologies. It’s is still years away from wide implementation, but the recent interest in developing the technology is an encouraging sign.

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