Tech firm testing light waves for faster, more secure Internet connection

By Espie Angelica A. de Leon

Signify, formerly known as Philips Lighting, is conducting tests on LiFi or Light Fidelity, an innovation which taps on light waves from LED lighting for reliable and secure broadband Internet connection while maintaining lighting quality.

Signify business development head for LiFi Systems Ed Huibers

Company officials made the announcement at its Philippine headquarters in Taguig City on November 5. Ed Huibers, business development head for LiFi Systems at Signify, reiterated that unlike WiFi, LiFi is free and does not require licensing.

Light waves provide an alternative to radio waves which are now heavily utilized due to increasing interconnectivity of devices.

Testing is now being held in 20 countries including China, India, and some in the Middle East. In some of these countries, testing is being done solely in Signify headquarters while in the rest, customers are testing the technology themselves.

According to Huibers, so far the results have been positive.

LiFi  is a two-way high-speed wireless technology which makes broadband connection possible at a speed of  30 Mb per second, allowing one to stream multiple HD-quality videos at the same time even while on video calls. With light waves’ broader spectrum which is 10,000 times bigger than that of  WiFi, LiFi will make for a stable Internet connection even with multiple connected IoT devices.

“We have roughly 35 billion connected devices. This will grow – 50 billion in two years time,” said Huibers.

Aside from increasing connectivity, data being used is growing as well. “Three years ago, we were at 5,000 petrabytes a month,” Huibers claimed. “Now, we use roughly 20,000 petrabytes a month, most of which is video. This will double  in a couple of years.”

The technology gives Philips the distinction of being the first global player in the industry to roll out LiFi-enabled luminaires.

Each luminaire is plugged with  an ethernet cable and has a built-in modem for light modulation. The cable serves as a wireless router. Meanwhile, the light wave coming from the luminaire transmits data to a LiFi USB key/dongle plugged into the laptop or tablet. The USB key or dongle then sends the data back to the luminaire via a built-in infrared emitter.

LiFi is ideal for places where radio frequencies may interfere with equipment such as hospitals, where WiFi is weak such as underground, and for areas needing top level security such as government and military facilities and financial institutions. Solid walls block light waves and a line of sight to the light is required to gain connection, thus heightening security in these particular areas.

No tests are being conducted in the Philippines as of yet. But Signify hopes to roll out LiFi in the local market by 2019 in time for the Southeast Games to be hosted by the country.

“In general we think we will target the professional user,” said Huibers of the company’s plans for the Philippine market. “I’d rather wait and have discussions with people knowing the market until we come up with a good solution for the homes.”

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