LiFi Smartphone Prototype Explores New Internet Commercial Paths

Kingsun LED Lights (Kingsun) has signed a LiFi communication and positioning system partnership agreement with Beijing Tsinghua University in May 2013, according to a company post on Chinese social media website Weibo. The company has successfully developed LiFi cellphone samples. The company expects the products can reach marketization once it achieves iPhone size and weight.

“LiFi and WiFi are similar to plasma and LCD TV,” said Duan Chou, General Manager Assistant and Spokesperson for Kingsun. “From a technical viewpoint, plasma TV might have more advantages. However, it was unable to become industrialized and forced to exit the market, due to market promotion, enterprises biased guidance, and consumers acceptance. Therefore, whether LiFi can move from the labatory to actual applications will depend on the entire industry chain development.  Especially, LED lighting commercial market development, and LED lighting’s popularity.”

 PureVLC LiFi equipment. (LEDinside/ PureVLC)

Kingsun’s outdoor lighting and indoor lighting application has begun to move to intelligent control and transporting communication signals. “Our next step will be using LiFi as a vector to transfer data through longer ranges, including wireless transfer,” said Duan.

Compared to Wifi, LiFi is a brand new technology, and still needs to undergo a series of industrial developments including a comprehensive supply chain structure before it can enter the average home, said Chinese industry researcher Lin Lin. “LiFi technology is still in the experimental phase, and it is a behemoth engineering process to connect Internet signals into every light bulb,” said Lin. “No company has showed interest in entering this industry yet.”

In addition, a shortcut for LiFi to enter the average consumer market is the mobile communication field by improving LED in smartphones, such as camera lens, display, and flash. Edinburgh University Professor Herald Haas has even founded Pure Visible Lighting Company (PureVLC) and has developed a series of smartphone applications that has even materialized low speed data transfer on iPhones. 

Other companies are also testing waters in this field. In 2010, Samsung started to use LED-backlit LCD displays to test light communications. In the same year, Siemens used visible white LED light to realize highest 500 Mbps light communication speed. In Las Vegas 2012 CES, Casio released two smartphones capable of LiFi communication. 

The road to commercialization for LiFi Internet connections

On airplanes, all wireless equipment is prohibited from being turned on. If cockpit lights can be used for Internet connections, then maybe passenger’s journey will become more interesting.

Drivers field of vision can be affected at night, and it can be difficult to avoid potential accidents. If automotive LED lights could “communicate” to each other or even exchange “messages”, then public might have an extra layer of protection.

LiFi or WiFi? A comparison of the two reveals each has its pros and cons.

 How can people surf the net with the lights turned off during the day? What can be done if the visible light is obstructed, and all the signals are cut? If mobile networks are the general trend, then how can smartphones use lights to surf the Internet?

In response to these questions, Fudan University Researcher Professor Chi Nan pointed out, the international community has already developed a new technology that allows LED lamps to connect to the Internet via weak electric currents in completely dark environments. “LiFi is not WiFi’s competitor, but a supplementary technology that can release spectrum space,” said Chi. “We still need WiFi, especially when light signals are blocked and we need to seamlessly switch to another signal emission system,” said LiFi inventor Haas. Moreover, for Fudan University the current issue is how to reduce the size of the transmitter that is already packed with circuits and other equipment into a single chip. LiFi inventor Haas proposed the bulb can be used for data transfer by using an ordinary LED bulb installed with microchip.

From this we can see light communication technology not only is limited to communication technology, it also includes visible light technology. Therefore, above mentioned industries still have large volumes of recognition tasks to complete and organize. 

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