Let’s just be honest with each other.
Wi-Fi has become so ubiquitous in modern life, it’s weird to go somewhere that they don’t offer it.
And, just between us friends, everyone gets a little bit grumpy when it’s not an option somewhere you’re trying to do work or accomplish something. (Editor’s Note: I’m looking at you high-end hotels that don’t offer free Wi-Fi.)
But soon we might have another wireless option that will make Wi-Fi look like your grandma’s dial-up.
Li-Fi, which gets its name from light fidelity, uses visible light communications to transmit data at ridiculous rates. It does so by operating on visible light between 400 and 800 terahertz.
And by ridiculous speeds, we mean ridiculous speeds.
One experiment offered speeds of 224 gigabits per second. To put that in perspective, average Wi-Fi speeds in the U.S. are around 11.5 Mbps. The technology uses similar 802.11 protocols as Wi-Fi, but doesn’t use the radio frequency waves to send data, which makes it more efficient, slightly more secure, and able to send a lot of data.
The record breaking speed mentioned above was achieved in a lab at the University of Oxford earlier this year, but the recent game changer for the technology occurred when researchers took it out of the lab to Tallinn, Estonia. They’ve been testing it in offices and industrial environments with a reported data transmission of 1 GB per second. It’s not quite as impressive as the lab results, but it still leaves Wi-Fi in the dust.
The inventor of Li-Fi, Harald Haas, first demonstrated the potential for the technology back in 2011, by flickering a single LED to transmit data.
This is just a much-improved version of that technology, utilizing the idea that a flickering light that is imperceptible to the human eye can be used to send binary code. It will probably never completely replace Wi-Fi, since it would be really expensive to swap out the infrastructure, but the researchers hope some retrofitting will allow Li-Fi to complement established Wi-Fi systems.