A British hi-tech start-up has invented a light bulb fitting capable of acting as the equivalent of a wireless network in the home.
Prof Harald Haas, the founder of PureLifi
PureLiFi, a spin-out from Edinburgh University, is poised to announce new technology that can create a two-way high-speed connection using signals sent by LED lightbulbs for the first time.
The company’s creation has attracted the interest of a club of hi-tech investors who are close to agreeing a $10m (£6.2m) funding to help miniaturise and commercialise the system.
It is a box that can be connected to any ordinary light fitting with an LED bulb and turn it into a LiFi internet access point. The signals are encoded in a high frequency flicker many thousands of times faster than the human eye can detect. At the other end of the box, a receiver picks up the signal and communicates back in infrared light. It is this device that Prof Harald Haas, the founder of PureLifi, plans to miniaturise using the incoming investment.
Prof Haas said that the creation of a “world first” two-way LiFi network was an “absolute essential development in proving this technology can be part of the Internet of Things”.
The Internet of Things is a catch-all term for a trend toward more everyday devices being connected, such as thermostats and home security systems.
It is envisaged that eventually the internet will be used to monitor and control almost any domestic or industrial device. That would mean a major expansion in wireless networking capacity beyond what Wi-Fi can provide.
Prof Haas said: “Worldwide industry demand for this product shows that LiFi is viewed as a transformative technology that can change the way we use the mobile internet and be an enabler of the emerging Internet of Things.”
PureLifi hopes that light-based wireless networking will become standard for 5G, the successor to the 4G networks currently being deployed by mobile operators, which is in the early stages of development.
The technology is currently being tried out by major airlines, which want to use it to provide better in-flight connectivity, and intelligence agencies, which are interested in the potential of LiFi for secure wireless data transfers.