Li-Fi is not going to replace Wi-Fi as many recent articles on the breakthrough technology would have you believe. It’s not the next product you’ll be buying on newegg. It is important, though, and may have plenty of future uses, from ultra secure networks to manufacturing. We here at Aggressive Science had questions about the tech and we noticed many others did as well so we decided to ask Velmenni, one of the leading companies implementing Li-Fi in the real world.
Turns out they do not intend to replace Wi-Fi at all, as Saurabh Garg, CTO of Velmenni explains, “our objective is not to replace Wi-Fi’s but complement them.” This will not come as a surprise to many of you, who have asked exactly how a network like this would even work in a household. The simple answer is that it wouldn’t, home users today need to be able to move around, take their work stations with them, which is what Wi-Fi is good at.
But how does it work? It is seemingly only good for downstream transmission meaning internet protocol is out, but, says Garg, “A Li-Fi stream is augmented with a receiver that can receive both light and infrared signals for creating an upstream flow” which means ultra fast Internet, sort of. The tech is still currently limited to the network itself so any connection to the Internet would still be limited by service provider speeds.
The hardware involved in a network like this is “a very small module that has an input for Ethernet and there is a separate hardware chip that gets attached to an LED” says Garg, but the design of it depends entirely on its use. “For example, we have been using Ring Topology for supporting automation in large warehouses.” This, to me is very telling of the technology’s practical use. Imagine a warehouse using Wi-Fi to communicate to its automation, then imagine a hacker wreaking havoc on the network just for the fun of it. That won’t happen with Li-Fi, the signal is limited to who or what is in the room, it is very secure, and it is very fast, but the beam is only aimed at one piece of equipment, and employees on the floor are still using Wi-Fi for everything else.
Li-Fi has some very specific uses and maybe one day you really will be using it in your home, but until ISP’s catch up it seems more useful for closed networks, not for improving your Xbox gaming experience.