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Li-Fi – Connecting the future through Light!

Author – Prayank Khandelwal

Ever wondered about transmitting data over Light? Professor Harald Haas introduced Li-Fi to the world in his TED talk in 2011. The talk was entitled ‘Wireless Data from Every Lightbulb’ which coined the term – Light Fidelity. To demonstrate his invention, he used a high-definition streaming video and transmitted it through a standard LED lamp. Professor Haas and his team were early into their research on VLC technology and go back as much as 2006. In their research, mostly they used light as a medium for two-way transmission of data. Successfully transmission of data over light was totally unbelievable back then. Li-Fi (Light Fidelity) as a new technology has progressed over the years since data consumption has increased multi-fold combined with the need for a high-speed internet connection.

Prof. Haas wore the hat of an entrepreneur with his venture named ‘pureVLC’ in the year 2012, which, he later renamed as ‘pureLiFi’. With the name, IP and the invention, secured under his belt’, Prof. Haas made pureLiFi’ as an OEM to commercialize LiFi products along with existing LED-lighting systems. A little modifications in the product allowed for easy fitment and integration with other market products and the company was able to scale in the market. LiFi soon became the center of attraction and many scientists began their work in light transmission technology. Advances in LiFi technology prevailed over the years.

Breakthrough in the innovation happened in August 2013 when using a single color LED. Professor was able to achieve data transmission rates of over 1.6 Gbps. Such a speed and that too using LED was un-heard of before. LiFi technology ensures direct light modulation and is cheaper than components like LEDs and photodetectors. Using and integration with LiFi, any LED can be transformed into a high-speed data transmitter.

Figure 1 : Top 10 inventor countries in Light Fidelity

The above figure indicates a graph of the top 10 countries working under LiFi technology. Amongst them, France witnessed 114 patents under Light Fidelity communication systems. Patents like ‘Method of receiving a li-fi modulated light signal (EP3465947B1)’, ‘Low-dimensional hybrid post-perovskites for high efficiency white-light emission ( WO2019238960A1)’, ‘Emitter with M-PAM modulation for wireless optical communication system (US10498455B2)’, inspired many innovators to improvise designs and make useful advancements with the LiFi technology.

Application developers are concerned about the requirement of a direct line of sight for the light transmission. In 2013, this concern was addressed using efficient illumination, high data rate capacity and security. Light waves transmit directly in line of sight and hence the security aspects get addressed to a certain extent. Considering the very nature of this technology, it finds itself in variety of applications like smart living spaces, mobile network, access points and electronic machine to machine communication. Lifi is an integrated part of the Industry 4.0 era. LiFi is truly a fascinating piece of technology enabling high-speed, high-efficiency wireless communication through light transmission.

Figure 2 : Technology-wise distribution of patents under Li-Fi

Patents like ‘Method and system for adaptive light fidelity (li-fi) communication(EP3627726A1)’, ‘Method of receiving a li-fi modulated light signal(EP3465947B1)’, ‘Optical wireless communication system and adaptive optical wireless communication network(CN110870222A)’, etc enhanced the Telecommunication sector. Similarly, patents like ‘Intelligent street lamp control system (TWM593121U)’, ‘Intelligent street lamp system combined with mobile communication device (TWM593116U)’, ‘Traffic signal system based on visible light communication for the visually impaired and method thereof (KR20200005839A)’, added variety in the technology offerings in the electrical machinery sector.

Figure 3 : Top 13 companies innovating under Li-Fi

Companies like ‘OLEDCOMM’, ‘FANG KEFENG’, ‘HONEYWELL’, ‘IBMand many others , have explored LiFi applications in the spaces namely, aeroplanes and hospitals where electromagnetic interference must be avoided and still data transmission must happen. With the advent of IoT, IIoT, Industry 4.0, automation and machine to machine communication has been developed to a great extent. Lifi technology is now being considered to create multiple access points for data connectivity. Big Data techniques are widely used to study the results of the voluminous data that is transmitted using light bulbs as terminals. Lifi has led to smarter, faster and more reliable methods of data transmission.

In any given ecosystem, multiple physical and electronic devices exists which talk to each other resulting into some apparent result. For example on a road, cars, signals, weather department can be in sync to ensure that optimal routs are discovered and passenger travel is safe. IoT ensures connectivity in machines and appliances in industry and houses respectively. LiFi has many such public facing applications which if protected and kept in sound hands will deliver larger public good. Wouldn’t it be great to always get a 5G connection while on a road!

Lifi if studied properly can solve many problems in public safety, healthcare and many other social economic sectors. It is important that such path breaking Intellectual Property is wisely managed.

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