Wi-Fi or Li-Fi, What Should You Choose?

Although difficult to believe, but Wi-Fi is running out of steam, or more technically speaking, running out of spectrum. With almost all devices connected with Wi-Fi, our consumption of ever-increasing amounts of information is actually pushing the capacity of Wi-Fi to handle data, to its limits.

Presently, we use radio waves for transmitting information using Wi-Fi, but this method has its limits and it can only transfer so much at a time.

According to the latest estimates, by 2019, we will be exchanging roughly 30-35 quintillion bytes of data each month. We are already consuming huge chunks of radio frequencies and these are heavily regulated. That means Wi-Fi will be starved of bandwidth as data transfer amounts shoot up.

However, work is already underway at providing better technology for increased data transfers. Light Fidelity or Li-FI is showing great promise using light waves to transmit information. Scientists at Tallinn, Estonia, have conducted field tests to achieve speeds of 1GB per second. Although that is only about 100 times faster than traditional Wi-Fi, scientists in their labs claim to have achieved speeds up to 224 GB per second.

Apart from limited capacity, Wi-Fi arrangements are notoriously inefficient. For example, the base station responsible for generating the radio waves works only at about 5 percent efficiency, with the major part wasted as heat. A second part of the problem involves security, as Wi-Fi can penetrate solid objects such as doors and walls, raising concerns for those transmitting sensitive data.

Although light waves are a part of the same electromagnetic spectrum to which radio waves also belong, the difference lies in their wavelengths. Light waves use wavelengths more than 10 thousand times smaller than the wavelengths of radio waves. That means light waves have the capacity to carry enormous amounts of information as compared to radio waves, a fact already established by improved data transmission rates using fiber-optical technology.

However, Li-Fi uses a slightly different method of transmitting data. It works by flashing an LED light on and off at incredibly high speeds when sending data to a receiver. This is essentially sending binary code, only at ultra-high speeds. You will not see any flashes because the LED switches so fast. The communication is primarily line-of-sight, as light from the LED will not penetrate walls and other solid structures. That makes the technology endearing to those looking for security. A person sitting on the other side of the wall cannot eavesdrop on communication using Li-Fi, as they can with the one using Wi-Fi technology.

We already use illumination devices in our homes, and this could double up as potential communication devices as well. What is necessary is to fit a small microchip to every light bulb to convert it into a wireless data communication hub, while also providing the necessary illumination. In other words, we already have the infrastructure in place. The LED bulbs in use in our homes and offices, with some tweaking, can work as incredibly high-speed high volume data transmission and receiving devices.