I recently watched an unbelievable demonstration by Professor Harald Hass, Edinburgh University, on light fidelity (Li-FI), showing how an off the shelf light bulb and a solar cell could transmit data via light waves, in this case a high definition video. Professor Hass is the director of LiFi research at Edinburgh, has numerous patents around Li-Fi, and has recently launched a spin off company called pureLif LTD. Professor Hass has demonstrated in his lab the capability to receive up to 50 megabytes per second from a standard, off-the-shelf solar cell, which is faster than the majority of broadband connections today.
The ramification to reach the billions of people that cannot access the Internet without Wi-Fi, but rather using existing, standard off-the-shelf LED light bulb to transmit data along with a solar cell to convert light to electrical energy while accessing the internet, is mind boggling. Again, there was no Wi-Fi involved and was just transmitting and receiving light. The solar cell provides the power, so no battery, no wireless infrastructure required. As Professor Haas stated “What’s really important here is that a solar cell has become a receiver for high-speed wireless signals encoded in light, while it maintains its primary function as an energy-harvesting device. That’s why it is possible to use existing solar cells on the roof of a hut to act as a broadband receiver from a laser station on a close by hill, or indeed, lamp post.” The implications are revolutionary, when you envision the incredible expansion of the Internet to countless billions of additional devices and people, adding to the growing Internet of Things.
To put things into perspective, in 2016 there are 3.6 billion Internet users out of 7.4 billion people according to Internet World Stats as of June 30, 2016. Roughly half of the world population has access to the Internet with 89% of North America being the highest, and 28% of Africa the lowest usage. What would happen if closer to 100% of the people had the capability to access the Internet? The amount of knowledge, creativity, sharing of information, collaboration and data will be astronomical.
Professor Haas believes within the next 2 to 3 years, his team and company will be able to go to market with this capability. The future impact is beyond my imagination.
Director of Marketing
Altura Communication Solutions