NextLifi, an Australian specialist in Li-Fi technology, has announced it will work with engineers at Monash University to create prototypes that use light rather than radio waves to transmit data.
Li-Fi data transfer, sometimes called visible light communication (VLC), is achieved by modulating LED-based lighting, on and off, at a very high rate – so fast, it is imperceptible to the human eye.
Since the visible light spectrum is 10,000 times larger than the radio frequency spectrum, Li-Fi is capable of data transfer speeds around 100 times greater than Wi-Fi and may have an important role to play in solving bandwidth congestion issues as more devices connect to the IoT.
In particular, Li-Fi holds out the promise of smart lighting that doesn’t just illuminate a space, but also provides its connectivity, too. Since light can’t turn corners or pass through walls, data transmitted will be limited to that space alone – but this, say its proponents, makes Li-Fi more secure than Wi-Fi.
Melbourne and Malaysia
Employees from NextLifi will be collaborating with researchers in the Monash Microwave, Antenna, RFID and Sensor Laboratory, based at the University’s campuses in Melbourne, Australia and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and led by Dr Nemai Karmakar, an associate professor in electrical engineering.
“Through this international industry collaboration, we are expanding our research and commercialization horizons from microwave and millimeter wave technologies to the exciting domain of visible lightwaves, which has really strong potential to benefit the national economy,” he said.
At NextLifi, CEO Gary Mackenzie said he expects visible light communication market to grow “exponentially” in the next few years, “especially in the IoT sector due to its vast benefits, with low-cost, large-spectrum and security advantages.” He anticipates that the company’s first commercial Li-Fi applications will be used in industry within the next two years.”
Birth of Li-Fi
This is still a very new technology. Li-Fi was first demonstrated back in 2011 by Professor Harald Haas, chair of mobile communications at the University of Edinburgh, in a Ted Global talk, Wireless data from every light bulb. Haas is also chief scientific officer at PureLiFi, a spin-out company based on his pioneering research at Edinburgh.
According to a recent report from Transparency Market Research, the global Li-Fi market is set for “robust growth” between 2016 and 2024, fueled by demand from the healthcare and education sectors. “Since the technology involves visible light wavelengths and not radio waves, it is less likely to have negative effect on humand health,” says Transparency’s analysts. Leading companies in the sector, they say, include Philips, LVX, PureLifi, GE and Oledcomm.
With its tie-up with Monash University, NextLiFi clearly aims to be among them.