Your LED lamps could soon provide you with blazing-fast Internet speeds, leaving your old Wi-Fi connection in the dust. It's all thanks to a new technology called Li-Fi, short for "light fidelity," which transmits information wirelessly via visible light.
The technology was recently demonstrated at the Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest mobile fair, by French startup Oledcomm, and it's already drawing interest from Apple for integration into the upcoming iPhone 7, reports Phys.org.
The thing that makes Li-Fi so revolutionary is its incredible speeds, up to 100 times faster than Wi-Fi. To put that in perspective, you could download 23 DVDs in just one second using a Li-Fi connection. Laboratory tests have shown speeds of over 200 Gbps. It could solve the bottleneck problem that currently exists with our Wi-Fi networks, which will only be compounded as an estimated 50 million different objects and devices are expected to be connected to the Internet by 2020.
Li-Fi works by making use of the imperceptible flicker of LED lights, which actually blink on and off thousands of times per second. That flickering has been dubbed the "digital equivalent of Morse Code."
For all of its advantages, Li-Fi does have one drawback. Because it beams information with visible light, your device has to be in a lit room for it to work. Forget about using it in the dark, or out in the bright sunlight for that matter. Sunlight interferes with the artificial light that is transmitting the information. Li-Fi also can't pass through walls, for the same reason that the light from a closed room doesn't illuminate any surrounding rooms.
So there still promises to be plenty of use for Wi-Fi even after Li-Fi gets widely implemented. The idea will be to use them in tandem, to get the benefits of each while canceling out the negatives.
Currently Li-Fi is more of a laboratory technology than something you'll find in your local coffee shop, but it may not be long before Li-Fi hotspots start popping up. Deepak Solanki, the founder of Estonian firm Velmenni, which tested Li-fi in an industrial space last year, said he believes the technology will really start to be commercialized within the next two years.
That timeline might even be shortened if Apple starts implementing it with the iPhone 7, which is scheduled for release late in 2016.