How Li-Fi Is Set to Revolutionize the Smart Buildings and Smart Cities
Light Communications, also known as Light Fidelity (Li-Fi), is a technology that allows data transfer over light signals, enabling high speed internet access for specific indoor use cases. It is based on the Light Emitting Diode (LED) and can be used to send or receive data between Li-Fi transmitters and Li-Fi receivers by using the visible light spectrum range from 380nm to 780nm.
Modulated with G.hn technology, Li-Fi is set to be the next major innovation in realizing the full potential of both the Smart Home and the Smart City. It has great potential for Smart Homes with high-density connectivity needs, especially where sensitive data needs to be transmitted between multiple connected devices within one room. The hybrid combination of a G.hn wired network with a Li-Fi wireless network can provide a secure, robust and flexible connectivity solution for any environment without requiring new infrastructure.
Light Communications (LC) technology is still in its infancy, and consumers are currently unable to buy Li-Fi systems in the same way that they could for Wi-Fi. However, ongoing work by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) to standardize LC is bringing the industry closer to making it accessible for a variety of market segments.
Why Use Light Communications?
Li-Fi supports larger bandwidths, can act as both a source and receiver, has low power consumption, enhanced security and is easy to install. It offers no interference to existing wireless communications (e.g., Bluetooth or ZigBee). Moreover, Li-Fi can provide more accurate location information, in contrast to the existing wireless technologies.
Due to its wide range of applications, Li-Fi has the potential to eliminate the need for other wireless technologies such as Infrared and Bluetooth. The light spectrum provides low latency and avoids the kind of disruption that can often happen with the radio frequency spectrum during congested periods.
Li-Fi also does not require a license to use the spectrum of visible light, providing instead an alternative method of data communication that does not add to the demand for radio frequency spectrum, which is needed for Wi-Fi and cellular radio systems. Radiofrequency spectrum is a finite resource, and the increasing number of wireless applications that need spectrum means that alternatives need to be found. Li-Fi is one of these solutions.
Potential applications of Light Communications include vehicle to vehicle communication, robots in hospitals, underwater communication, and information displayed on signboards. It also has applications in areas that are sensitive to electromagnetic waves, such as aircrafts and hospitals where radio signals (such as those used by mobile phones) otherwise interfere with the waves of other machines.
The primary benefit of Li-Fi is that the signals cannot pass through walls – something that is often seen as a downfall for other technologies. This dramatically increases the security of any communication using Li-Fi, as it cannot be interfered with by anyone outside of the room where the signals are occurring.
In situations where sensitive data needs to be transmitted between multiple connected devices within one room, Li-Fi is the ideal technology to use. This is because the light spectrum has a low power consumption, offers enhanced security and is easy to install.
In other words, for environments that require a high level of security such as schools and hospitals, Li-Fi reduces electromagnetic interference, therefore not affecting sensitive devices. For airports or government buildings, where there is more sensitive information that could be a target of a cyberattack, Li-Fi eliminates the risk of data interception by outsiders which are out of sight, therefore offering a vastly enhanced security platform.
Li-Fi and Wi-Fi
Li-Fi and Wi-Fi are both wireless technologies that complement each other and can be used together in smart buildings and smart transport topologies to provide the users with a wide range of benefits.
Wi-Fi provides the user with greater freedom of movement, as Wi-Fi signals can extend throughout the home and through walls, to ensure complete coverage for consumers in the home. This is suited to scenarios where the user is moving throughout the building and needs to maintain a connection.
In contrast, Li-Fi requires a line of sight between a lightbulb LED transceiver and a connected device. In circumstances where communication channels need to carry more sensitive information that could be a target of cyberattacks, Li-Fi offers a vastly enhanced security platform.
How Does This Impact Service Providers?
Li-Fi significantly reduces the need for expensive, time-consuming and disruptive laying of cables. Instead, the LED-powered Li-Fi connections can be used to beam data directly to the destination. This could be used for example with office buildings, allowing data transfer without needing to lay additional cables from one access point to another.
Traffic management is also an area where Li-Fi has a lot of potential applications. The large amounts of data that is transferred over public Wi-Fi are neither secure nor capable of effectively managing the network traffic. Li-Fi could allow for both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications enabling tremendous opportunities for the smart transport market. Using a vehicle’s headlights and the LED lighting in traffic lights, citywide traffic management systems could collate and distribute live traffic data to reduce congestion and prevent accidents on the roads.
The Future of Light Communications
The Li-Fi market is growing at an unprecedented rate and is expected to exceed ten billion devices by 2023. The Smart Grid market is also expected to grow from 23.8 billion USD to 61.3 billion USD by 2023, to facilitate smart cities’ evolution.
For Light Communication to reach its full connectivity potential, in-premises networking must provide a strong backbone for the access points. HomeGrid Forum’s G.hn wireline technology provides the most reliable backbone for both Li-Fi and Wi-Fi media, according to each use case and the corresponding requirements.
As technology is driving forward at such rapid speed, the potential for Li-Fi is enormous. Consumers are going through a period of unparalleled change. It is no longer just about connected devices, but a whole new suite of applications that will be delivered by a range of technologies, of which Li-Fi is set to be key. Li-Fi technology will be vital in making wireless connectivity more secure due to its unique capability to support specific use cases and eliminate common issues in environments – particularly where there are concerns surrounding security.
Over the next few years, we can expect to see further developments, with the emergence of Li-Fi products into the consumer market, together with the provisioning of Li-Fi connectivity for smart buildings and smart vehicles. HomeGrid Forum has already started working on a certification for Li-Fi high-speed indoor optical wireless communication products and as the benefits of Li-Fi become more widely acknowledged the possibility of the technology will increase exponentially.
- “LiFi Technology” https://purelifi.com/lifi-technology/
- “Data at the speed of light – HomeGrid Forum sees VLC technology as the latest development in the Smart Home/City revolution supported by G.hn” https://homegridforum.org/2019/04/23/data-at-the-speed-of-light-homegrid-forum-sees-vlc-technology-as-the-latest-development-in-the-smart-home-city-revolution-supported-by-g-hn/
- “HomeGrid Forum lays out roadmap for a secure wireless connected future with Light Communication” https://homegridforum.org/2019/08/07/homegrid-forum-lays-out-roadmap-for-a-secure-wireless-connected-future-with-light-communication/
Livia Rosu is the Chair of the Marketing Working Group of the HomeGrid Forum and has been on the Board of Directors since 2014. She is a Computer Science engineer with 18 years of business development experience in the telecommunications industry, dedicated to semiconductors and the standardization of revolutionary technologies ranging from Smart Cards to Smart Cities. Livia has built a strong knowledge of industry associations having previously worked for MaxLinear, Marvell Semiconductor, ETSI, PSO Protocol Council of ICANN, the ISG by the EC-POP and the ISOC-AC. Livia received an MBA from EDHEC Business School in France in 1999. She holds a Masters in Computer Science and Internet Security (M.Sc., 1997) and a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in Automation Engineering and Network Management (B.Sc., 1996) from Polytechnic University of Romania with scholarship award from France. Livia is fluent in 6 languages.
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