How Li-Fi is going to change the world

Those lightbulbs in your home and office could soon become a source of the internet. 

Meryl D'Souza April 3, 2016

Expect to hear a whole lot more about Li-Fi this year. For those of you who consider yourselves technologically challenged, Li-Fi, or light fidelity, is a wireless technology that transmits high-speed data using visible light communication.

With scientists having already achieved speeds of 224 gigabits per second, this could be a potential alternative to Wi-Fi. To give you perspective, with Li-Fi you could download multiple high-definition movies in a second. 

This essentially means that in the near future, a lightbulb with a microchip could transform it into a wireless data transmission point. And since you’re using an optical means of communication, Li-Fi will be confined within the walls of your room. That confinement makes it secure since there’s less chances of malicious interceptions within the stream.

For years, professor Harald Haas has been advocating the idea that data can be transmitted through LED lightbulbs. In November last year, the professor of mobile communications at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland demonstrated the same at a TED talk with the help of an IKEA lamp and a laptop. 

Real world applications of Li-Fi

The advantages of Li-Fi stretch far beyond the confines of your little room though. Li-Fi could become the spark that finally sets off the Internet of Things.

The Internet of things is a vision of a hyper-connected world of objects autonomously communicating with each other. We’ve seen glimpses with wearable tech and smart appliances, but this would take things to the next level.  

For example, sensors in your car will directly alert you through your smartphone that your tyres are too worn or have low pressure, or your fridge might inform your smartphone that you have run out of milk, and even order it for you. Think Jarvis from Iron Man, and imagine a future like this: 

Li-Fi in the UAE 

You may think that this kind of tech is decades away and we’re simply making a fuss about it now for no good reason. But that’s not how things stand. 

In January this year, Twitter user Chase Fromm spotted mention of 'LiFiCapability' in Apple’s operating system iOS 9.1's library cache. AppleInsider confirmed the same. With luck, your next iPhone could potentially be Li-Fi compatible. 

Not only that, but Dubai has plans to be one of the world’s first cities to implement Li-Fi, in keeping with its aims of become a smart city. Telecom operator du has partnered up with local company Zero.1 and is reportedly testing Li-Fi already, with Zero.1 having outlined its plans to have the hyper speed connectivity working in Silicon Oasis by the end of this year. 

At a recent announcement, Marc Fleschen, CEO of Zero.1, said: "We are proud to say that in conjunction with our project partner du, we have been able to initiate the first demonstration of its kind in the Middle East… We look forward to the roll-out of our LiFi applications in the Dubai ‘Smart City’ platform and the retail sector as the year unfolds.” 

Saleem Al Balooshi, executive vice president at du, concurred: “We are currently working with major businesses to create tailor-made Li-Fi solutions and to test and validate the applications… 

“The recent demonstration of Li-Fi adds further impetus to…establishing the UAE as a global leader in all aspects and as an innovator in technology in the Middle East region.” 

So not only will Li-Fi soon be a reality, but here in the Middle East we will get to experience it first. Not only that, but with the Li-Fi industry expected to be worth around AED 300 billion by 2021, it should have a positive knock-on effect for the economy too.