Is your business ready to embrace the future? Do you have even the slightest concept of what that future holds and how you and your business fit into it? Here is a brief glimpse…a blink, so to speak:
When they say “Fast as the speed of light” they will not be telling the truth. Soon you may be connecting your smartphone to the web with a lamp — that is the promise of Li-Fi, featuring Internet access 100 times faster than Wi-Fi with revolutionary wireless technology.
Recently, French start-up Oledcomm demonstrated the technology at the Mobile World Congress, the world’s biggest mobile fair which was held in Barcelona. As soon as a smartphone was placed under an office lamp, it started playing a video.
The big advantage of Li-Fi, short for “light fidelity”, is its lightning speed.
Laboratory tests have shown theoretical speeds of over 200 Gbps — fast enough to “download the equivalent of 23 DVDs in one second”, claims founder and head of Oledcomm, Suat Topsu.
“Li-Fi allows speeds that are 100 times faster than Wi-Fi” because it uses radio waves to transmit data, he added.
The technology uses the frequencies generated by LED bulbs — which flicker on and off imperceptibly thousands of times a second — to beam information through the air, leading it to be dubbed the “digital equivalent of Morse Code”.
It started making its way out of laboratories in 2015 to be tested in everyday settings in France, a Li-Fi pioneer, such as a museums and shopping malls. It has also seen test runs in Belgium, Estonia and India. But, not here.
Our firms are still trying to squeeze as much money as they can out of existing technologies before they change over and then force everyone to buy new equipment. Run back your history and take a look. TV, recording devices, phones, music players, radios, virtually every technology firm pushes to saturate the market all the while developing the Next Big Thing that will make what you just purchased obsolete and scrambling to obtain the last gadget just before it, too, is relegated to the dustbin. But, back to the leading edge…
Dutch medical equipment and lighting group Philips is reportedly interested in the technology and Apple may integrate it in its next smartphone, the iPhone7, due out at the end of the year, according to tech media.
With analysts predicting the number of objects that are connected to the Internet soaring to 50 million by 2020 and the spectrum for radio waves used by Wi-Fi in short supply, Li-Fi offers a viable alternative, according to its promoters.
“We are going to connect our coffee machine, our washing machine, our tooth brush. But you can’t have more than ten objects connected in Bluetooth or Wi-Fi without interference,” said Topsu.
Deepak Solanki, the founder and chief executive of Estonian firm Velmenni which tested Li-fi in an industrial space last year. He expects that “two years down the line the technology can be commercialized and people can see its use at different levels.”
Of course Analysts also play into that marketing ploy of holding off until that last moment. Thus, you will here them say it is hard to tell if Li-Fi will become the new Wi-Fi.
“It is still a laboratory technology,” said Frederic Sarrat, an analyst and consultancy firm PwC.
“Much will depend on how Wi-Fi evolves in the coming years,” said Gartner chief analyst Jim Tully.
“Wi-Fi has shown a capability to continuously increase its communication speed with each successive generation of the technology.”
“Li-fi has its drawbacks — it only works if a smartphone or other device is placed directly in the light and it cannot travel through walls.” quipped Tully. This restricts its use to smaller spaces, but Tully said this could limit the risk of data theft.
“Unlike Wi-Fi, Li-Fi can potentially be directed and beamed at a particular user in order to enhance the privacy of transmissions,” he said.
Backers of Li-Fi say it would also be ideal in places where Wi-Fi is restricted to some areas such as schools and hospitals.
“Li-fi has a place in hospitals because it does not create interference with medical materials,” said Joel Denimal, head of French lighting manufacturer Coolight.
In supermarkets it could be used to give information about a product, or in museums about a painting, by using lamps placed nearby.
It could also be useful on aircraft, in underground garages and any place where lack of Internet connection is an issue.
But Li-Fi also requires that devices be equipped with additional technology such as a card reader, or dongle, to function. This gives it a “cost disadvantage”, said Tully.
Question: Once the market is primed how fast do you think the technology will develop that will allow Li-Fi to broadcast through walls or any barrier? How long until a microscopic chip in created to handle the technology in the smallest devices? They are already in process of reducing an iPhone to a contact lens.
It is a Brave New World out there. Be ready for it.
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