LiFi technology sends broadband data through light

Already hitting 330 million internet users last year – up 70 million users since 2015, Southeast Asia has grown to become the third largest number of internet users in the world. The region's internet economy is expected to expand further as Google and Temasek estimated it to climb 300% from US$50 billion in 2017 to reach US$200 billion. With this burgeoning digital population, the radio frequencies used by Wi-Fi technologies will also become more congested.

With light being all around us, Light Fidelity (LiFi) is an untapped resource that uses light waves to transmit , and offers a large bandwidth suitable for the stable simultaneous connection of a vast array of IoT-enabled devices. In other words, LiFi offers an alternative solution to the already congested radio waves, and hence reducing the potential risks of compromised connectivity. On top of this, LiFi is the way forward in security. Any area that is illuminated is able to receive the signal, but the transmission is stopped by opaque objects such as walls. This means that with LiFi, confidential information will not be leaked into other buildings or public areas. The extra layer of security offered by LiFi presents a bright prospect for businesses and industries that demand high-security.

Across Southeast Asia, Republic Polytechnic will be the first institute of higher learning to work with Signify, formerly Philips Lighting, to adopt LiFi . The partnership will also encourage more collaborations between RP and Signify in new technology areas such as a full Smart Lab installed with LiFi by 2019, as well as Visible Light Communication (VLC) and other smart lighting technologies.

Signify is the first global lighting company to offer LiFi-enabled luminaires from its existing office lighting portfolio.

“LiFi has enormous potential for today's digital age and as the world's leading lighting company we are proud to pioneer new and innovative services for our customers,” said Olivia Qiu, Chief Innovation Officer, Signify.

“While radio frequencies are becoming congested, the visible light spectrum is an untapped resource with a large bandwidth suitable for the stable simultaneous connection of a vast array of Internet of Things devices. Being a lighting company, we ensure that our customers benefit from the finest quality energy efficient light along with state-of-the-art connectivity,” she added.

Internet connection and quality illumination at the same time

LiFi is a two-way, high-speed wireless technology similar to WiFi but uses light waves instead of radio waves to transmit data. Signify's office luminaires enabled with LiFi technology provide connection with a speed of 30 Mb per second (Mb/s) without compromising lighting quality. With 30Mb/s a user can stream simultaneously several HD quality videos while having video calls.

Icade, the French real estate investment company, is piloting the ground-breaking technology in its smart office in La Defense, Paris. “LiFi has the potential to be a real game changer in offices. As the leader in our market we wanted to explore the possibilities of this technology for existing and future clients. We plan to showcase the technology in our smart office in La Defense, so aside from stable connectivity, light quality is crucial to us,” said Emmanuelle Baboulin, Head of the Commercial Property Investment Division at Icade.

Benefits of LiFi

LiFi offers benefits over WiFi as it can be used in places where radio frequencies may interfere with equipment, such as in hospitals, or where WiFi signals cannot reach or are weak, such as underground. Other user cases include environments demanding high security; for example, the back office of a financial institution or government service. LiFi adds an extra layer of security as light cannot pass through solid walls and a line-of-sight to the light is needed to access the network.

How does LiFi work?

Each luminaire is equipped with a built-in modem that modulates the light at speeds imperceptible to the human eye. The light is detected by a LiFi USB key/dongle plugged into the socket of a laptop or tablet (in the future such technology will be built into laptops and devices). The LiFi USB dongle returns data to the luminaire through an infrared link. With Philips LiFi-enabled luminaires, customers get the double benefit of quality, energy-efficient LED light and a highly secure, stable and robust connection as LiFi has 10,000 times the spectrum of WiFi.

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