LEDs can be modulated at a high frequency level that can’t be perceived by the human eye, supporting transfer data rates proven at 10 to 100x faster than Wi-Fi while remaining localized (only line of sight). The technology is also highly energy efficient as the visible light is already in use for lighting applications and seen as a safe alternative to radio waves, which are potentially harmful.
By nature, LiFi helps solve specific issues in numerous applications: for example, reducing a plane’s weight by using optical fiber instead of copper cables, or eliminating the risk of electromagnetic interference in hospitals. On a broader scale, LiFi can also provide additional bandwidth capacity to communication networks (when available).
In a new market report titled "LiFi - Technology, Industry, and Market Trends", market research firm Yole Développement reviews the different components required for a complete LiFi ecosystem to strive and grow in a global market.
According to Yole's analysts, while the components already exist, the key to LiFi’s growth is a communications standard that ensures all the different components, functions and software integrate into interoperable solutions.
To allow for bi-directional communication, LEDs, light sensors, power management electronics, modulation encoding and demodulation decoding systems and network management embedded software must be integrated in two systems. For instance, an LED luminaire/lamp paired with a terminal, i.e. a computer or a smartphone.
Although downstream data can be carried by visible light doubling as indoor lighting, it is hardly possible for upstream data to use white light, infrared (IR) light is preferred in order to prevent glare.
What's more, at the light emission level, a monochromatic LED will enable a data rate 10x times higher compared to a white LED. Also, when modulated at high frequencies, white LEDs can suffer colorimetric distortion due to variations of the balance between emitted photons from the blue source and from the phosphor-converted material.
Regarding industry aspects, the focus will be on integrators and their willingness to bet on LiFi technology. Indeed, a clear commitment from a carrier industry (i.e. telecom, mobile devices, lighting) is mandatory for making concrete products from the technology. But according to Yole, despite the technological and industrial challenges, the main roadblocks for LiFi market development still remain at the standard level.