Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Li-Fi: Visible light that’ll matter when we turn into machines

Wi-Fi and radio signals are too easy to steal, and they're also expensive to maintain, require lots of power, and the infrastructure is constantly strapped for bandwidth. Just make a call on AT&T during peak hours if you don't know what I'm talking about. So let's turn to...Li-Fi?

Harald Haas, a professor of Engineering at Edinburg University, decided to use something we all have to remedy the problem: boring ol' visible light. That tiny bit of spectrum we rely on so heavily is completely untapped for data transfer, and Haas has developed a method to transfer up to 10 Mbits/second with nothing but an LED and a chip with the data to transmit.

Practical applications aside - like restaurants transmitting menus directly to smartphones, or cars using their headlights to communicate with other cars, or Walmart uploading a Google-Maps map of where you are so you don't get lost in that giant black hole - using light to transmit data has a couple of kickass benefits. It only transmits where the light hits, meaning you could make a flashlight that transmits data. Haas also believes that by the end of the year he can bring transfer rates to 100 Mbits/second, and eventually reach 1Gbit/second. Even at just 10 Mbits/second, we could all have high-speed connection anywhere with lights just by including a light sensor on our laptops and cellphones.

Now to get everyone to switch to LEDs...