Feeds

WTF is... Li-Fi?

Optical data transfer's new leading light?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Feature

Reg Hardware Mobile Broadband Week

Forget about Wi-Fi - the future of home wireless networking is, according to boffins, the light bulb.

So say a number of researchers and technologists who are looking to light to provide the next step in high-speed data networking in the home.

PureVLC D-Light

The principle is simple: turn a light on and off so rapidly that the human eye can't see the flicker, but a photodetector can nonetheless pick up the stream of 1s and 0s the blinking bulb is transmitting. Compress the data, and you up the throughput even more. Old-style filament bulbs and fluorescent tubes aren't up to the task, but new, LED-based lighting is.

It's not hard to envisage home lighting with an integrated photodetector - to pick up signals sent back from networked devices - and perhaps a powerline adaptor on board to maintain a connection over electrical wiring back to the router.

The technique is called Visible Light Communications - or VLC, not to be confused with the open source media player of the same name - but the companies springing up to deliver the technology are already branding it "Li-Fi". The similarity to the name "Wi-Fi" is deliberate: they hope VLC will become as ubiquitous a networking technology as 802.11 has become.

Lightbulbs, lightbulbs everywhere

One of VLC's key proponents, Harald Haas of the University of Edinburgh, reckons that isn't hyperbole. With tens of billions of regular lightbulbs installed in homes and offices across the globe, as they're replaced with LED light sources, Li-Fi can be a communications technology that can be found almost everywhere.

Li-Fi bulbs will inevitably be more costly than regular LED bulbs, but then the potential volumes will, Haas reckons, push prices right down.

How Li-Fi works

More to the point, Li-Fi could be used in almost every location where regulations forbid the use of Wi-Fi: aircraft cabins and hospitals, to name but two. And light isn't affected by the spectrum regulations that govern how radio frequencies can be used.

Of course, getting it out of the lab and into the living room - and every other space illuminated by a lightbulb - is another matter.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
You didn't get the MeMO? Asus Pad 7 Android tab is ... not bad
Really, er, stands out among cheapie 7-inchers
Apple winks at parents: C'mon, get your kid a tweaked Macbook Pro
Cheapest models given new processors, more RAM
4K video on terrestrial TV? Not if the WRC shares frequencies to mobiles
Have your say with Ofcom now, before Freeview becomes Feeview
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Microsoft stands on shore as tablet-laden boat sails away
Brit buyers still not falling for Windows' charms
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.