What’s REALLY Next?
For the first time, the scientific and professional world involved in LiFi gathered together in order to share ideas and pave the way for the future of LiFi.  They endeavored to show an academic and industrial LiFi overview and to exchange ideas on its main challenges and its evolution through a series of academic conferences and round tables.  Burhan Kamal was a part of this first-ever LiFi Congress and provides answers to some of our burning questions about ‘what we need to know’ about LiFi.

Q: First, what exactly is LiFi?

A: LiFi is a wireless optical networking technology that uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for data transmission. LiFi is designed to use LED light bulbs similar to those currently in use in many energy-conscious homes and offices.

Q: What are the positives that this technology brings to the table?

A1: The positives fall under 4 key areas: Network capacity, Security, Cost and ease of integration and Safety.  The higher bandwidth of LiFi using an unoccupied frequency range means greater capacity, and no government license requirements.  Since it is a short-range transmission requiring line-of-sight, security is increased.  LiFi avoids electronic interference, WiFi congestion and any need for human radio wave protection.  It is compatible with existing LEDs, energy efficient and cost effective.  It has the potential to be used complimentarily or as a service.

  • Higher Bandwidth (>10Gbps)
  • Higher Security: walls block light, operates on a short-range transmission and line of sight is required
  • No interference from electronic devices and no congestion issues with WiFi and/or RF networks as well as adjacent LiFi sources
  • Safe for living organisms and no need for radio wave protection especially in hospitals, aircraft etc.
  • No license for data transmission frequency needed from any government agencies
  • Large, unoccupied frequency range (430-770 THz) up to 10,000 times wider than radio frequency
  • Very Fast LED’s flickering not perceptible to the human eye, compatible with existing LED light bulbs, etc.
  • No costly hardware and energy efficient.
  • Accurate positioning (CM accuracy)
  • Could be supplementary to future indoor networks.
  • Potential for LiFi as a service (Lifiaas)

A2: The negatives at this early stage fall into very practical areas.   Line-of sight is required because it is a signal embedded within the light.  This creates a bit of inflexibility on the location of lamps, for example.  It is most suitable for indoor applications with 10 meters being the general effective operating range.  The chipsets and terminals need to be in place and the LED to gateway and electrical wiring as well.  Mobility, fast handovers and directing the light for moving objects are initial issues, but, we have to remember that we are in the early phase of this technology.

  • Most suitable for indoor applications
  • Inflexible when installing lamps
  • Requires a line of sight
  • 10 Meter operating distance mostly *(see note on other manufacturers)
  • Low maturity on the technology. Needs development and is still in the embryonic stage
  • Chipsets in devices and terminals need to be in place
  • Wiring to interconnect LED’s to a gateway or an aggregator of traffic and the electrical wiring
  • Mobility and fast handovers and pointing of the beam for mobile objects
  • Introducing to market and finding a path to progressively increase.

Q: What are some of the most likely potential applications for LiFi?

A: Some that immediately come to mind after the discussions and demonstrations at the LiFi Congress are:

  • LiFi for Administrative and medical services
  • LiFi for health in hospitals
  • Automotive applications for headlights and inter-car communication for autonomous cars
  • Data access points
  • IOT secure services

Q: Can you give us some examples of use cases and how each would work?

A: The best way to break this down is by looking at the two points involved in the communication in any case or situation.  We can put these into 7 groups.  You have a stationary person to another stationary person, a stationary person to a mobile person, a stationary person to a stationary object or machine, and a stationary person to a mobile object or machine.  Then, we go mobile with a mobile person to a fixed object or machine, and a mobile object or machine to another mobile object or machine. Finally, we have 2 fixed objects or machines communication with each other.

We can then lay each of these out for a comparison of a few key points as below:

Use Case 1: Fixed Person – Fixed Person

  • Communication of data, unidirectional or bidirectional
  • Applications: medical, police, administration
  • Type of data: Low bit rate
  • Type of terminal: Classical smart phone exploitation of the camera and of the LED
  • LiFi as an Administration & Medical Service ( LiFi aaAMS)

Use Case 2: Fixed Person – Mobile Person

  • Communication of data, unidirectional or bidirectional
  • Applications: primary/supplemental bandwidth for IP traffic delivery
  • Type of data: High bit rate
  • Type of terminal : classical smart phone communicating over integrated/external optical transceiver
  • The concept of optical access can be extended to optical backhaul
  • LiFi as an Additional Service (LiFiaaAS)

Use Case 3:  Fixed person – Fixed object/machine

  • Communication of data unidirectional or bidirectional
  • Applications: info from advertising panels (stations, airports, administrations, hospitals, transports, commercial centers, shops, etc.) Internet access (offices, transport, hospital, schools, commercial centers, airport, etc.)
  • Type of data: low bit rate and/or high bit rate
  • Type of terminal:
  • Low bit rate: classical smart phone, exploitation of the Camera and of the LED
  • High bit rate: internet adopting plug IN or new terminals
  • LiFi as a Optical Access Technology (LiFiaaOAT)

Use Case 4:  Fixed person – Mobile object/machine

  • Communication of data, mainly unidirectional, potentially bidirectional
  • Applications: remote control of an object machine, alerts from an object/machine, industry 4.0
  • Type of data: low bite rate
  • Type of terminal: classical smart phone, exploitation of Camera and of the LED in a first step. Could require new embedded chipsets
  • LiFi as a Remote Controller (LiFiaaRC)

Use Case 5:  Mobile person – Fixed object/machine

  • Communication of data, unidirectional or bidirectional, low bit rate
  • LiFi as a Data Access Point (LiFiaaDAP)

Use Case 6:  Mobile object/machine – Mobile object/machine

  • Communication of data, unidirectional or bidirectional, low bit rate
  • Application: Automation (communication between cars, drones, robots, etc.)
  • Specific interface, positive exploitation of Cameras and of the LED of cars
  • LiFi as an Optical Mobile Communication Technology (LiFiaaOMCT)

Use Case 7:  Fixed object/machine – Fixed object/machine

  • Communication of data, unidirectional or bidirectional, low bit rate, LED
  • Application: Communication between two objects………….
Q: LiFi seems to cover a wide array of potential uses.  Should we expect to see this in use in the near future?

A: As I said earlier, it is still early days for this technology, but development is moving fast.  Wireless optics will definitely be part of the network in the next few years.

Using the signal range as a category differentiator, the industry has focused development across the spectrum.  In the less than 1 meter range for device to device communication, less than 10 meters for office lighting and places like airplane cabins, less than 20 meters for streetlights and car-to-car communications.  This is a big push in ‘Smart Cities” like Dubai for universal coverage and autonomous vehicles.

Then we get into the longer, outdoor scenarios with less than 500 meters for communication to homes and wireless devices.  At the far end we have airborne communications and LiFi undersea.  So, there is no range that that is not seeing a furious pace of development.

Q: Can you suggest where we might have a look at a demonstration?

A: No problem.  Here is a link for videos and images showing the concept of LiFi:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/cSwTqUyrKlUUCdwk2

And something a bit creative that we haven’t mentioned yet – Fabric communication.  This is the integration of LiFi receiving and sending with clothing or fabric woven from a special fiber to enable LiFi data reception and transmission.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/aTWOsKIKMAmkTKFV2

The possibilities will just keep getting more interesting.  Would you leave the light on please…

PROS


  • Higher Bandwidth (>10Gbps)
  • Higher Security, walls block light, operates on a short-range transmission and line of sight is required
  • No interference from electronic devices and no congestion issues with WiFi and or RF networks as well as adjacent LiFi sources
  • Safe for living organisms and no need for radio wave protection especially in hostipals, aircrafts etc
  • No license for data transmission frequency needed from any government agencies
  • Large unoccupied frequency range (430-770 THZ) up to 10,000 times wider than radio frequency
  • Very Fast LED’s flickering not perceptible to the human eye, compatible with existing LED light blubs
  • No costly hardware and energy efficient
  • Accurate positioning (CM accuracy)
  • Could be supplementary to future indoor networks
  • Potential for LiFi as a service (Lifiaas)

CONS


  • Most suitable for indoor applications
  • Inflexible when installing lamps
  • Requires a line of sight
  • 10 meter operating distance mostly
  • Low maturity on the technology. Needs development and is still in embryonic state
  • Chipsets in devices and terminals need to be in place
  • Wiring to interconnect LED’s to a gateway or an aggregation of traffic and the electrical wiring
  • Mobility and fast handovers and pointing of the beam for mobile objects
  • Introducing to market and finding a path to progressive increase

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