One emerging technology that has the potential to transform wireless communications in the coming years is Li-Fi. This innovation, which uses modulating light rather than radio waves to transfer data, offers great potential for faster, more reliable connectivity at high bandwidth.
But while the technology has been proven in theory for a few years, what can it offer in the real-world? Up until now, commercial applications for Li-Fi have been somewhat limited, but as new standards for the innovation emerge and costs become more affordable, this is starting to change as more organisations investigate what it can offer.
Here are just three applications where the deployment of Li-Fi is proving successful.
In the office
Many mainstream deployments of Li-Fi technology are likely to be in large offices, where there is a growing need for better wireless connectivity solutions. With the number of laptops, smartphones, tablets and Internet of Things devices growing all the time, this is putting more strain on traditional radio-frequency based solutions. Indeed, as many more gadgets compete for the limited bandwidth that is available, this could seriously impact speeds in the coming years.
Li-Fi offers a fast, reliable solution to this congestion. Among the firms trialling this in live office environments is communications provider O2, which has installed Li-Fi-enabled LED bulbs at its headquarters in Slough. The firm noted that in addition to the speed and reliability benefits, Li-Fi also has the potential to reduce the complexity of its infrastructure and cut energy consumption.
Derek McManus, O2's chief operations officer, said: "Our Li-Fi trial shows how you can deliver high-speed connectivity to customers in new ways and is another example of how we’re future-proofing our network as we pave the way for 5G in the UK."
Li-Fi deployments aren't just for large enterprises with extensive wireless networks. In fact, the technology is also useful on smaller scales, such as in the classroom, where it has also proved successful in transforming how users get connected.
The technology has been tested at Kyle Academy in Ayrshire, which has become the world's first school to pilot real-world Li-Fi deployments, with students using plug-in dongles to connect their laptops to the network - illustrating how existing gadgets can be hooked up to Li-Fi without the need to replace expensive equipment.
Using this technology greatly improves the connectivity of the classroom and allows the learning environment to be enhanced through better access to high-bandwidth learning materials, such as videos and e-books.
In secure environments
Another advantageous factor for Li-Fi is the added security and reliability it provides, which is something that may be particularly important to companies operating in highly sensitive environments, such as engineering firm Babcock.
This company, which offers bespoke, high-quality engineering services to organisations like the Ministry of Defence in the marine, land, aviation and nuclear sectors, installed Li-Fi solutions at its Connected Facility test bed at its Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth.
The environment is used to test and evaluate innovative new technologies that will allow it to develop new operating models based on the use of digital data. However, traditional Wi-Fi technology is not ideally suited for use in this area, as radio transmissions can be subject to interference and pose security risks.
Li-Fi, on the other hand, offers a much more secure and reliable way of managing wireless communications in critical, highly-sensitive scenarios, allowing the company to quickly deploy solutions without impacting the overall risk profile of its infrastructure.
These are just some of the ways in which Li-Fi technology is proving useful in real-world applications for organisations large and small. With similar trials taking place around the world, and more commercially-viable Li-Fi tools becoming affordable in the coming years, more use cases are sure to emerge.