It’s starting to become apparent that the application of LED technology transcends simply providing fantastic lighting displays. Fresh advances in Visible Light Communication (VLC) are seemingly boundless, and don’t seem to be showing any sign of decrease in the immediate future, with new, feasible applications being developed at a rapid pace.

2016’s Hannover Messe, scheduled to run from April the 25th to the 29th will feature a practical display from the renowned German Fraunhofer Society of Li-Fi technology. The organization will demonstrate a factory floor robot tapping into a Li-Fi communications system and perform tasks by receiving and sending instruction via LED ribbon strip lights. No wires. No Wi-fi. No router. Just LED strip lighting – data transferred between 400 and 800 terahertz to transmit messages in binary code – which equates to data transfer rates greatly in excess of current Wi-Fi, clocked at 224 GB a second in 2016.

Make no mistake – This is no conventional Wi-fi beater, at least not quite. As visible light cannot pass through walls, Commercial Wi-fi still has advantages over Li-fi, though to think Li-Fi’s purpose lies in being a commercial home-based Wi-Fi alternative is to misunderstand the technology. As an upgrade to current and dated Bluetooth technology, (long considered an inefficient battery drain for most devices), Li-fi is very viable; as most LED light strips have a very small power requirement compared.

Light being unable to pass through walls is less of a drawback and more of an advantage when it comes to most modern local networks’ longstanding problem – security. As you drink a coffee in a café or tap into a bus or train’s onboard Wi-fi, your device is at risk from attack from others connecting to this local network. If your internet connection comes from the lighting within LED lighting which are part of the establishments’ displays, your important data can’t be accessed by an opportunist outside.

Largescale companies such as Phillips and Cisco have teamed up to equip buildings in Holland and Dubai with Power over Ethernet (PoE) lighting in supermarkets to illuminate displays for advertising purpose, and last month a Twitter user revealed an image which showed that Apple may be testing Li-Fi technology on the iPhone7 – indicating data transfer on visible LED lightwave instead of radio waves. The company had already been rumoured to do away with its headphone jack on the new iPhone model– but these findings indicate that the iPhone7 could be taking an even bigger leap into PoE technology, perhaps even linking VLC to features like the much-vaunted Apple Pay.

Additionally, Li-Fi is cited to help usher in the Internet of Things (IoT) by opening up desperately needed bandwidth, with the added benefit of little interference with existing technologies. LED lighting doesn’t interfere with radio waves, after all. Applications exist from business environments to aviation to hospitals and healthcare, with devices central to each industry actively being retrofitted, even now, to optimize speed and security by incorporating Li-Fi technology. Overall, it appears that the technology is progressing past infancy and into something that commands the attention and resources of industry-leading companies.

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