I have been reading about Li-Fi and how it can deliver data faster through the visible spectrum compared to radio waves that Wi-Fi uses.
Like many technologies, it isn’t completely new having been first publicly demonstrated in 2011. Initially the usage was to provide internet access in office spaces where cabling or Wi-Fi wasn’t reliable. Basically, it needs three items to work: a light source, an internet connection and a photo detector.
This is a technology that could help the automotive industry in a few different ways although there are (as always) pros and cons to it.
Li-Fi is significantly faster than current Wi-Fi speeds, in fact, tests show up to 224Gb per second transfer rates. It can also use existing infrastructure, so the configuration is easier to set up and with today’s LED (Light Emitting Diode) light systems would be compact yet powerful.
Li-Fi uses the visual spectrum which is 10,000 times wider than the Wi-Fi radio spectrum. The radio spectrum is now getting overcrowded, so a new method would release some of that traffic. As Li-Fi uses a completely different spectrum, there is no interference so data points can be transmitted without worry of confusion.
Li-Fi is not fully reliable yet in direct sunlight today and it cannot pass through solid walls – it is light based so anything solid will naturally block it.
Like all technologies, this one is in the early stages of development, testing and real world usage. I can see some evolutionary steps that would make it work very well for autonomous transportation, for example, I could see it being used today to provide hotspots on public transport and buses using the existing lighting systems.
The key to using it regularly is to enable it to be used in bright sunlight. Researchers are already testing receivers that detect the changes of intensity of the light source – an LED transmitting data changes intensity faster than the slower changes in intensity provided by natural sunlight. However if the engineers could use a different light source – maybe a new form of LED, OLED (Organic) or PHOLED (Phosphorescent Organic), we could see Li-Fi adopted much quicker (assuming costs are kept low).
When that happens, Li-Fi could be added to autonomous cars to share data such as immediate traffic congestion information, changes in road surface data or even car to car communication that helps with drafting or slipstreaming to help reduce energy consumption.
If we encouraged pedestrians to wear light emitting equipment, cars could be aware of night time movements without the need for radar or other technologies to perform over a wide area because data could be transmitted that defines the distance between the car and human.
Most reports about Li-Fi only talk about internet hotspots yet I feel that if the researchers have developed this only to give people access to the Internet then we have missed the point of the technology. Li-Fi should be used for machine-to-machine communications not just to stream cat movies or emails/documents.
Li-Fi could be a major step forward in automotive autonomy or safety technologies.