Pierre Laberge
Manager | Tax

The concept of Light Fidelity (LiFi) has existed for some time. It’s now making a comeback and Dévicom is participating in its development. Light-based communication could become common place.

It was Alexander Graham Bell himself who first communicated by light using his invention, the photophone. Bell wondered, “Can Imagination picture what the future of this invention is to be?” His question remained unanswered and the world turned to Hertzian waves for radio communications instead.

It was the development of light-emitting diodes (LED) that made it possible to revisit this technology, with the extensive use of LED devices prompting the industry to develop LiFi solutions.

Closer to home, Dévicom, a Saguenay company, recently entered into a partnership with Longueuil-based Global LiFi Tech. The two companies are collaborating on research and development as well as promotion and client-building strategies.

Our expert spoke with Jean-Luc Doumont, Dévicom Business and Communication Strategies Analyst.

How are voice and data transmitted by an LED light?

The principle is based on using two main components, a transmitter and a receiver, with an optic channel between them. One of the properties of LED light is that it switches the current off and on at a very high rate, up to several thousand times per second, unseen to the human eye and can therefore be used to transmit information using the computer binary system. When it is on, a LED light emits a (1) bit and when it is off, it emits a (0) bit.

These extremely fast frequency changes (0 or 1) are used to transfer all types of video or audio data over a broadband connection using a LiFi router that transmits electricity and data. The receiver is a mobile terminal (standard cell phone or tablet) that decrypts the light signal using a modulator to transform it into it to a high frequency internet signal.

Can any type of mobile terminal be used?

The cell phone or tablet must have a LiFi receiver or the computer must have a LiFi dongle to establish the connection. Some manufacturers have already integrated this technology into their business processes, it just needs to be activated when the time comes.

With this technological advance, it would be possible to have totally free bandwidth globally (with no licensing cost), without radio waves or electromagnetic interference, as well as more secure communication. Optical waves cannot penetrate through walls (LiFi’s main limitation), which means data is contained inside a lighted room.

Deployment of the technology is part of 5G telephone development as a result of extensive connectivity needs, due in part to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton - image

Are there any other benefits to LiFi compared with the highly popular and widespread cellular or WiFi data networks?

Another benefit of LiFi is that it does not use radio frequency (RF) bandwidth. This helps address the problem of RF bandwidth that is almost at full capacity partly because of the immense popularity of audio/video streaming. Not only are WiFi bandwidth frequencies constantly growing, they are unable to meet demand.

LiFi has lower user costs and a DEL bulb can last up to 50,000 hours.

Lastly, data is unpiratable, since light can’t be pirated! Because it is not subject to interference, LiFi makes it possible to use the internet in locations that are not accessible by WiFi.

What are the potential applications?

In the home, each LED light could broadcast different information for each user.

In a hospital, LiFi could be used to communicate patient files electronically, as soon as the patient arrives at the specialist’s office.

At a municipal or RCM meeting, each elected official would have a copy of the agenda, minutes and resolutions as soon as they are connected with a LiFi light. When they leave the premises, the documents would no longer be accessible.

In a plant, LiFi could be used to access the internet or transmit information on various products using a tablet, as soon as a user moves close to machinery (safety and operational rules, etc.).

A first in Canada

In September 2017, Dévicom achieved something special by conducting a telephone interview broadcast by a local radio station using LiFi technology. This technological feat was accomplished by using a USB cable to connect the light sensor/convertor to a regular computer with a telephone using IP (Internet protocol). The LiFi Oledcomm technology was used to make several calls with no dropped calls and with an outstanding sound quality.

The future

Let’s go back to Bell’s question from long ago, “Can Imagination picture what the future of this invention is to be?”. While we may not be able to predict the future, we can picture two practical examples.

In a museum for example, if each work of art had its own LiFi light, visitors could learn about the work of art, when it was created, see a video of the artist and learn graphic details when they approach the work.

In a car dealership, clients could have access to information on a vehicle’s performance, an explanatory video, technical details. The possibilities are endless!

Jean-Luc Doumont is a Business and Communication Strategies Analyst with Dévicom, which handles LiFi infrastructure for Global LiFi Tech, a company deploying this new technology and converting lightbulbs and tablets to LiFi.

14 Mar 2018  |  Written by :

Pierre Laberge is a manager at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton. He is your expert in taxation for the...

See the profile