Posted on: 8 - 2 - 2018

How can LED lights give you internet data?

One of my aims for 2018 is to share (not spam) with topics I think will be of interest to the lighting community. So next on the list is light and the internet.


If you work in the lighting industry, you may have heard of a very interesting start up from Edinburgh in the UK called PureLifi. PureLifi first became popular after co-founder Harold Haas demonstrated his vision of wireless connectivity using light at a TED talk in 2011. Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength, unveiling new innovations at various high profile events. At LuxLive in November, we saw PureLifi launch a range of certified kit, including drivers and luminaires.

What is lifi and why do we need it?

In layman’s terms, lifi can be thought of as light based wifi or fiber optic without the fiber. Given the rate at which we’re consuming wifi, the idea of using light via LED lamps to light a room as well as power our computers is not just very appealing, but actually necessary.

Analysts and researchers are telling us that a spectrum crunch is looming, that our data demand is running the risk of creating a radio wave gridlock – think of a wifi traffic jam. We generally think of watching Netflix or YouTube as a given, but it’s claimed the internet is, essentially, running out of room. Once we add driverless cars and other internet of things devices into the mix, that puts radio wave capacity under further strain.

How does lifi work?

By making a few modifications to the light fixtures in offices or at home, light waves can provide an internet connection. Lifi enabled LED lights act as wireless transmitters, flashing light faster than the human eye can perceive. A sensor (at the moment a dongle) attached to a laptop, tablet or phone, picks up these light waves and turns them into data.

Obviously the dongle part makes the process a little clunky at the moment, but the technology is making strides. And all it takes is for a major vendor, let’s say Apple, to incorporate lifi capabilities into an iPhone release for this technology to really take off.

More benefits of lifi

Lifi goes beyond alleviating the capacity crunch - another significant advantage is security. Since there’s only a certain number of access points (as data can only transmit when light is available), lifi is a very attractive option for those working in government, security or military sectors.

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