Is LiFi better than WiFi?

Point 6 Design explores the benefits of a light-based network.

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In the summer of 2019, Signify, world leader in light, launched a LiFi network called Trulifi. The network uses light, rather than conventional radio waves, to connect users to the internet. The idea has been around since 2011, but only recently has it started to gain traction. That being the case, we thought it’d be wise to highlight the differences between WiFi and LiFi – turns out, there are quite a few.

How’s it different?

Before getting onto what’s better or worse, let’s quickly make sure that we’re all aligned with our definitions. Wifi, short for “wireless fidelity”, is a near-universal term, and it refers to the wireless system that operates by sending and receiving information in the form of radio waves. So far, so good.

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LiFi (light fidelity) uses light waves to transmit and receive data – which is an improvement for two main reasons. Firstly, a light-wave network has less information going across it compared with the highly-congested radio frequencies occupied by WiFi, meaning data can be transferred with less interference. By way of analogy, using WiFi is the equivalent of trying to walk quickly down Oxford Street on a Saturday in summer, whereas LiFi is your own secret tunnel.

Secondly, once you include the entire spectrum of light, the bandwidth LiFi operates on is 10,000 times larger than those available to radio waves. Returning to that secret tunnel of yours, it’s not only empty but it’s also massive. So not only is your tunnel empty, but it’s also the size of London, meaning even if the population of Oxford Street did happen to find it, you’d hardly notice.

Why it’s better

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Speed and improved bandwidth are two immediate benefits to using the spectrum of light. However,  LiFi has a lot more to give than that. In fact, because a LiFi network doesn’t cause electromagnetic interference in the same way as radio waves it can be used in places that are inaccessible for internet users. Airplanes, hospitals and submarines all suffer from busy radio activity, meaning WiFi networks also suffer or remain non-existent. Yet, with light, this is no longer an issue. 

What’s more, LiFi will also transmit and receive information as far as the light itself will shine. One application of this is underwater use. Currently, machines operating under water will have hard-line connections. For obvious reasons, this significantly restricts mobility. Whereas with a light-based connection, which can comfortably reach depths of 100-200m and even go as far as 1000m, these machines will be free to manoeuvre.

Secure and connected

On the flip side, because light is bound by certain physical barriers, so too is your connection. Meaning your data and information will be secure and remain within the building you’re working in. With a LiFi connection, the days of highly-intricate passwords could be over as cyber crime is blocked out.

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But if you wanted to look to the arena where LiFi will perform best, look to the streets. Smart cities are the future and, naturally, have lighting in abundance. With a LiFi network a city goes from being an array of disconnected, inanimate objects, to something not unlike a mind – with information firing across it like neurons processing a thought. Cars too will join the conversation, conveying their locations, speeds and destinations, easing traffic and improving safety. 

So perhaps it’s time to stop thinking about how things should be, and instead look at how they could be. Installing LiFi is relatively straightforward, with the essential component being a specialised luminaire adapted to receive a plug-in modem. In fact, changing to LiFi – particularly with the Trulifi system – will be like turning on a light.

Learn more!

Find out more about Trulifi at Signify’s website: https://www.signify.com/global/innovation/trulifi

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