Let there be Li-Fi

Part 1

Chances are, right now, you are connected to Wifi in some way, somehow. Did you check? Are you connected?

If you are, you’ll want to stay connected to this article – one that will affect the way you connect with your consumer, keep that lightbulb burning bright above your head, and most importantly, up to speed with the ever-changing scope of technology in retail.

As you may know, this is the year for retailers to start searching out non-incandescent and non-fluorescent bulbs that meet new energy efficiency standards to light their stores. The decision doesn’t seem difficult after finding LED bulbs use 85% less energy than incandescent bulbs, last up to 20 times longer, AND do things we never even dreamt of.

If you’re an avid follower of TED, you may already know about this new term we call “Li-Fi” – like the Wifi you’re connected to now, instead powered by LED lightbulbs. Alexander Graham Bell might be proud of the guy who’s pioneering THIS.

Meet Harald Haas, a guy whose goal is to propel the idea that with Li-Fi, you can connect to the internet simply by being within range of an LED beam – a double whammy for an industry looking to cut energy costs and beacon bills.

So how does it all work? Let’s start first with how Li-Fi came about.

The term was coined in 2011, when Haas took the Ted stage to demonstrate his vision for the future of wireless communications using LED bulbs:

Li-Fi, short for Light Fidelity is a wireless optical networking technology that uses LEDs for data transmission.

It works like this: You have a light on one end (an LED in this case), and a photodetector (light sensor) on the other. If the LED is on, the photodetector registers a binary one; otherwise it’s a binary zero. Flash the LED enough times and you build up a message. Use an array of LEDs, and perhaps a few different colors, and very soon you are dealing with data rates in the range of hundreds or megabits per second.

It refers to visible light communications (VCL) technology that delivers a high-speed, bidirectional networked, mobile communications in a similar manner as Wi-Fi. VLC is the use of the visible light portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to transmit information.

This is in contrast to established forms of wireless communication such as Wi-Fi which use traditional radio frequency (RF) signals to transmit data.

With VLC, data is transmitted by modulating the intensity of the light, which is then received by a photo-sensitive detector, and the light signal is demodulated into electronic form. This modulation is performed in such a way that it is not perceptible to the human eye.

VLC is a category of Optical Wireless Communications (OWC). This means, VCL is unique in that the same visible light energy used for illumination may also be used for communication.


On a more general level, LiFi might be used to extend wireless networks throughout the home, workplace, and in commercial areas. It might not ever replace Wi-Fi, at least not in the near future.

But according to the inventor himself, “Obviously, if you block light entirely, then it won’t work. But it’s really hard to interrupt a light beam. The light can bend very heavily.”

As for us? We’re excited to see how fellow inventors put this to good use! Especially in retail.

What are your thoughts?

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