New Delhi: “I call it the light revolution,” said founder and chief scientist of pureLi-Fi, Harald Haas, who is also a professor of mobile communications at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
On the second day of EmTech India 2017, Mint’s flagship technology conference, hosted in partnership with MIT Technology Review, Haas demonstrated how LED lights and solar panel systems together can be used to connect devices, transfer information and communicate, making wireless and broadband internet redundant.
Haas explained that artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning systems, devices and robots, which will work like humans, will have intelligent systems that will constantly transmit data and run data analytics to decide what action to take.
“Communication is an essential requirement to create a fully connected world. To create a fully connected world your resource is 300 gigahertz of radio spectrum. (But) with growth of data communication at 60% compounded annual growth rate, you’ll run into bottlenecks...Because the fifth generation of mobile communication lives in spectrum between 30 gigahertz and 300 gigahertz...beyond which we hardly find any spectrum,” he said.
“LiFi or light fidelity is transformative ... it has the capability to support future technologies—big data, augmented reality, virtual reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence,” he said.
Haas said while there is 300 gigahertz of radio spectrum, there is 300 terahertz of visible light spectrum. “And if you add infrared spectrum to the visible light spectrum it will be 2,600 times larger than the entire radio spectrum.
“(This spectrum) is free, it is not regulated by the government, it is safe, it is huge and unused and can drive the fourth industrial revolution,” he added.
Haas started his research 15 years ago when he found that due to the growing trend of mobile telephony, the world could run out of spectrum. Haas demonstrated the technology for the first time in 2011 at a TED event in Edinburgh.
Two things are important for LiFi —LEDs and solar power panels. “Think of them as light source and an energy harvester. LED is a high-speed communication transmitter and receiver, the solar cell which absorbs photons and convert them into energy. If there is information embedded in the flow of photons, solar panel decodes the information, and that is what we did,” said Haas.
He added: “LiFi is a fully networked system; when you walk past the lights one cone of light will hand you over to another, creating a mobile communication system, that can communicate between hundreds of thousand of IoT (Internet of Things) devices and that is what we call LiFi.”
Eighty billion devices are expected to be connected to the internet by 2020. Most of these devices have light sources and solar panels, which can make them LiFi-enabled.
Now engineered to be a dongle-sized device, the technology has the ability to go up to the speed of 100 gigabytes per second.
The commercial prospects of it is immense; street lamps could be used as public LiFi stations; self-driving cars’ headlights can be LiFi-enabled for its artificial intelligence technology to work; robots can use it to exchange information; healthcare wearables can use LiFi to track heartbeat, among others.
Globally, visible light communication or LiFi is expected to be a $115 billion market by 2022, said Haas, quoting a report by Allied Market Research published last year.