by Mayleen Meñez, Guest Contributor,Technology
You may not be aware that connectivity is becoming a significant issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. As technology advances, the need for a better alternative means for connection is becoming an issue that we need to be concerned about. The online world is snowballing. The rapid growth in the number of end-users, developers, connected devices, and competing services and products all getting their fair share of digital real estate from the available technology provided by the limited radio frequency spectrum.
Within this spectrum are the services that we use to be connected online. This includes 3G, 4G, 5G, WiFi, and Bluetooth. But this spectrum is a limited space ranging from the frequencies of 3kHz to 300 GHz. It is a limited resource that we are fast consuming to answer the rising demand for it every year.
So, let us talk about radio waves.
Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation whose wavelength is longer than infrared light. The uses we have for it includes 3G, WiFi, and so on. And we have benefited much from the use of radio frequencies. But at the moment, we are rapidly running out of the radio frequency spectrum. The capacity of this spectrum, although broad, is not enough to accommodate the increasing demand that doubles every year. And with the rise of IoT (Internet of Things), connectivity will be needed to support service for all these things. At the moment, we use radio waves or radio frequencies to transmit data wirelessly. But as mentioned, the use of this spectrum is limited and expensive. We have a lot of cellular (radio) stations that we use to transmit and receive data for communication and data transmission. These stations consume massive amounts of energy, not for the function of information or data transmission, but for cooling down the systems of the station. This is not energy-efficient and makes it very expensive. We also have to take into consideration that most communication and safety concerns are connected to radio frequencies. For example, your mobile phone, which runs on 4G at the moment, will not be allowed to be switched on while on a flight because flight communications run on radio waves. Any interruption on flight communications may have catastrophic effects on flight travel and the safety of passengers and crew. Lastly, we need to consider the security risk of using radio waves. Radio waves pass through walls, which means the signal can be intercepted and, therefore, exploited. The data intercepted may be misused and abused for whatever the attacker deems fit to use it for.
So, do we have an alternative?
LiFi or Light Fidelity is another option that will address the concerns raised with the use of radio waves for wireless connections. Some people may consider LiFi as an alternative, but, as we will discuss later, it should complement the present technology to provide the best service. LiFi is a type of wireless technology that uses the visible light spectrum to transmit and receive data. The spectrum of visible light is based between the frequency of violet (800 THz)and the frequency of red (400 THz). This is the optical spectrum that LiFi will be using. The radio frequencies that we use are in the lower end of the wavelength spectrum, while visible light is at a small niche in the middle of the spectrum. The other end of the spectrum is made up of types of light that are in the higher end of the spectrum. This type of light is considered harmful to humans, such as gamma rays, ultraviolet rays, and infrared rays. With this, we can safely use visible light as a medium for the transmission of data and communication.
We know that programming language works with the binary code of 1s and 0s. It has been discovered that with the use of bright LEDs, we can use this technology to transmit data to one another. If you turn off the LED and assign 0 to this state and turn it on and assign 1 to this state, a developer or programmer can configure an LED light source to make rapid changes to communicate using light as a medium for the binary language. This rapid change is faster than the eye could detect because the operating speed of LEDs is lesser than 1 microsecond. This on and off invisible activity and even through Intensity Modulation (IM) is what is used to communicate using Visible Light Communication or VLC. This is the basis for the introduction of LiFi technology.
The Difference between VLC and LiFi
They both use the optical light spectrum to transmit data. But VLC is considered to be a Point-to-Point data communication technique. VLC is also considered as a cable replacement with respect to its function. While LiFi is regarded as a completely wireless communication experience. It is a bi-directional multi-user communication. With LiFi, one can experience a Point-to-Multipoint or Multipoint-to-Point communication. This gives the consumer or end-user full mobility in communication.
Four Important Things to Remember
1. First Introduction
LiFi was introduced by Professor Harold Haas to the public through his TED talk in 2011. He discussed LiFi both as an alternative and a complement to the present connectivity technology we have. Professor Haas also described the benefits of using the visible optical spectrum to communicate data.
2. A Complement to the Digital Ecosystem
LiFi is meant to complement the present technology and not to replace it. LiFi will be using the visible optical light spectrum as a medium and would have a much bigger bandwidth and would be able to accommodate so more end-users, developers, services, and devices. But that expanse of digital real estate is meant to expand the horizon and not to do away with the old technology. There are limitations that we are seeing with 5G technology at the present time. This is also true with LiFi. But with WiFi, 5G, and LiFi, we would have an ecosystem of connectivity that would benefit more people. This would also complement and cover any weakness each type of connectivity may have and provide better quality and selection of service for the consumers. This would open up connectivity options that are built-in to mobile devices. Thereby giving consumers seamless connectivity options that they can choose to connect and access their data online. And because the medium for WiFi and LiFi is different, both can be, in theory, be combined to achieve higher speed and bandwidth. In achieving greater speed and bandwidth, LiFi has been tested and was able to reach an internet speed of about 224 gigabits per second. This is far better than 5G’s internet speed of 10 gigabits per second. But by layering (and not negating or canceling each other), WiFi or 5G, together with LiFi, can achieve 100 times more in relation to an increase of speed. And LiFi having a greater bandwidth, coupled with WiFi, can increase the communication speed between devices that facilitate the IoT (Internet of Things).
3. Benefits of LiFi
LiFi may be considered as energy-efficient and cost-effective because it uses LED bulbs. These bulbs are known to be energy-efficient with just its primary purpose of providing light. With LiFi, LED bulbs are given a separate purpose. If you take this purpose into consideration, one will save more money in energy expenses because you would not need devices—like routers, WiFi repeaters or expanders, modems, and amplifiers—that are connected to the electrical outlet all day every day. This would produce budget savings for consumers and less digital waste that would impact the environment. LiFi will also take advantage of the present position of LED bulbs located in different infrastructures in your locality. With more and more infrastructures implementing the use of solar technology, these LED bulbs may also serve as an outlet for wireless internet service, as well as wireless battery charging at the same time.
Another benefit would be that LiFi does not pose any health concern compared to prolonged exposure to 5G signals. As long as LiFi uses the visible optical light spectrum of violet (800 THz)and the frequency of red (400 THz), and not gamma rays, ultraviolet rays, and infrared light, normal light spectrum poses no harmful radiation threat to cell development in people.
LiFi technology would also be a benefit to the petroleum industry and the aviation industry. LiFi would provide the benefit of connectivity and reduce the risk by not using radio frequency that may produce harm in these types of industries.
4. Future Implications to Digital Security
WiFi and 5G’s use of radio frequency produces a loophole in making the connection secure. Radio frequencies can pass through walls and obstacles. This can be considered an advantage by some, but it is also a security concern for others. This ability of Radio Frequency to pass through obstacles also means that the signal can be intercepted. This vulnerability may also lead to or cause espionage or eavesdropping. As light cannot pass through opaque surfaces, LiFi signals cannot be accessed by nearby devices that are beyond that opaque surface, such as a wall or curtain.
Because LiFi is easily contained by, let’s say a wall, sectors of society that are targets for cyberattacks would have the benefit of an added layer of security. LiFi would ensure that a secure wireless network has been established within the premises of the company or industry. The sectors of society that would most likely benefit from this added layer of security are pharmaceutical, legal, finance, and military intelligence establishments. With LiFi, security protocols would be simplified in a way because all you need to make the connection secure is to close the curtains, so to speak.
With LiFi, ordinary people would have control over their own cybersecurity. Regular appliances that they own would also serve the purpose of being their digital safe or container of sensitive data. Your passwords, financial information, and other critical data would be safely stored away in a vessel that people would rarely think of as a safe box.
Another future implication of LiFi would affect organizations. Each ray of enabled light has an IP Address, and organizations can leverage this to improve security in their facilities using geofencing. This unique identifier will also enable network managers to precisely monitor activities in their network. Identification of a breach, digital forensics, or identification of bad internal actors will then be accurately analyzed. This unique identifier can also be a tool to use for behavioral analytics or for hardware encryption.
LiFi technology uses the light of the visible electromagnetic spectrum to transmit data at very high speeds. It is already being implemented in some industries and is making an impact on both connectivity and lighting designs. And the development of this technology provides a complimenting digital ecosystem where billions of smart devices can effectively function with LiFi’s faster speed and higher bandwidth. LiFi does have its limitation, but in conjunction with WiFi and 5G technology, they produce a more significant benefit together than just functioning individually. But at the top of it all, LiFi provides an added layer of security that works well together with the present technology that exists today.
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