Technology users demand faster and faster Internet speeds, and University of Edinburgh Professor Harald Haas has found a way to make it happen. In 2012, Haas launched a company called pureLiFi to develop data transfer technology with light. Fast-forward to 2016: A small number of businesses in Tallinn, Estonia are testing Light Fidelity, or Li-Fi for short. The Visible Light Communications (VLC) system transfers data at speeds up to 224 gigabits per second, or 100 times faster than Wi-Fi – that’s about 18 full-length movies per second.

How It Works

Wi-Fi uses radio waves, and Li-Fi technology uses the light from household LED bulbs. Similar to a super-fast version of Morse code, Li-Fi uses flickering light streams to transmit data – the light streams aren’t visible to the naked eye. The technology turns these light signals into the familiar binary code used to power the Internet and a range of electronic devices.

Barriers for Some Users

In its current form, Li-Fi presents interesting options for commercial users. However, Wi-Fi mostly likely will remain the primary way average people access the Internet. The main concerns: Li-Fi requires users to have LED bulbs installed throughout the space, and the lights must be on at all times for the technology to work, according to TechWorld. Li-Fi also does not pass through walls. Both concerns point to limitations of the technology’s use in residences and public spaces.

Secure Data Transfers

One of Li-Fi’s biggest drawbacks turns out to be a significant benefit for businesses. Light’s inability to pass through walls means that commercial users could be able to transmit consumer data in a more secure environment. All we need to do is fit a small microchip to every potential illumination device,” said Haas at a 2011 TED talk on Li-Fi technology’s potential. Whether Li-Fi will replace Wi-Fi as the primary method of accessing the Internet for all users is yet to be determined. 

The verdict is out but just think a few years ago you would have never thought WiFi would be so available and mostly free.