Imagine super fast WiFi that's literally as easy as switching on a light.
"The light in your ceiling will be the iPhone of the future," Professor Harald Haas, chief science officer at pureLiFi, told MTV News. Haas, a German physicist, first proposed the revolutionary idea of using LED lights as WiFi transmitters four years ago during a TED Talk.
Instead of using traditional radio frequencies, the potentially revolutionary service uses a light source, a LiFi-enabled bulb with a special chip in it and a photo detector to create an Internet connection that its creator says could deliver download speeds 10 times faster than current WiFi.
Haas said he's well aware of the limitations of current WiFi thanks to his 10-year-old son, who sometimes has trouble connecting to Minecraft because of the scores of people trying to access a WiFi signal at any given time. "When you go to an airport or hotel and you want to download some video content, the data rates go down to zero -- and it takes hours to even load a starting page because so many people are trying to log on at the same time that it creates a bottleneck," he said. "You're all trying to share a limited resource: the radio spectrum. Think of it as a lake and there are as many people as possible trying to get as much water as possible."
But with LiFi, that lake turns into an ocean that can hold "as many people and swimmers as possible, because the bandwidth of the visible light spectrum is 1,000-times bigger than the entire radio spectrum."
If the tests prove accurate, the speeds could allow LiFi to download a high-def film in just seconds, thanks to the higher bandwidth offered by visible light spectrum and the low interference factor involved in using light waves versus radio frequencies. The system works by tapping into a constant current from an LED lightbulb (meaning it has to be within reach of a light source), which is read by an optical output on your phone and converted into electrical current.
After releasing two versions of its LiFi device, pureLiFi says it's incredibly efficient and requires "negligible additional power" and has no known health or safety concerns. Data security is also enhanced by LiFi because the signal is confined to a specific area and can not travel through walls.
pureLiFi is especially useful in the downloading of video and audio, could enable interactive toys to communicate and reduce the cabling weight of passenger planes where already in-place LED lights could fuel in-flight entertainment and support mobile phones.
Another company pursuing a similar goal, Estonia-based Velmenni, told the International Business Times that they used a LiFi-enabled light bulb to transmit data at speeds of 1Gbps (gigabit per second), with lab tests promising speeds of up to 224Gbps. (Th fastest WiFi speed generated to date is 100 Gbps.)
While Velmenni is aiming to reach consumers with its Jungru product within the next 3-4 years, pureLiFi expects to have its first products to market by the end of 2016.
Haas said there is also a "fantastic" green aspect of the technology, which could make it perform with 100 to 1,000 times more energy efficiency than traditional WiFi (because you don't have multiple devices straining to constantly fight for spectrum, which brings down efficiency rates.)
"The light spectrum can be reused many more times than the radio spectrum because you have zero interference from someone in the next room," he said. "Also WiFi goes through walls and is not secure. With LiFi you just shut the door and blinds and you're secure."
At present, the only real downside to this potentially revolutionary science is that LiFi doesn't work outdoors, so no public LiFi for now, or LiFi fueled by the sun, because daylight interferes with its signal.