LiFi and WiFi: What’s the Difference?

LiFi is especially useful for areas where radio frequencies may interfere with equipment, such as in hospitals and factories

The ever-evolving world of technology requires new and innovative inventions to make life easier. After WiFi technology, which is now widely being used across the world, the latest innovation on the block is LiFi. In an interview with DataQuest, Mr.Ed Huibers, Head of Business Development LiFi Systems, Signify- Formerly known as Philips Lighting, talks about Signify’s LiFi technology, their expansion plans in India, and benefits of using LiFi.

How is the service offered by Signify’s LiFi Systems different from those being offered by established players in India?

Light Fidelity (LiFi) is a technology in which high quality LED lighting provides a stable and fast broadband Internet connection through light waves. Unlike other forms of wireless communications (e.g. WiFi, 4G/5G, Bluetooth, etc.) that use radio waves, LiFi uses the broader spectrum of light waves to transmit and receive data wirelessly, LiFi’s bandwidth is more than 1,000 times the size of the radio spectrum. LiFi works in such a way that each luminaire is equipped with a built-in modem that modulates light at speeds imperceptible to the human eye. The light is detected by a USB access key/dongle plugged into the socket of a laptop or tablet (in the future such technology will be inbuilt into laptops, mobile phones, and devices). The USB access key returns data to the luminaire through an infrared link.

While radio frequencies are becoming congested, with more devices trying to connect and overloading networks, the visible light spectrum is an untapped resource with a large bandwidth suitable for stable simultaneous connection for a vast array of Internet of Things devices.

Being a lighting company, our customers are able to derive double benefits of high-quality, energy-efficient LED lighting and a highly stable, secure and fast broadband connection from our LiFi luminaires. Our LiFi-enabled luminaire also provides seamless hand-over between light points, which means that as a user moves from one side of a large office to another, they maintain their connection as one light point hands off to another. The coverage-zone provided by Signify luminaires is also believed to be the widest in the market.

We provide everything customers need to set up LiFi at their office, from light sources and modems to USB access keys. As the world leader in lighting, we have leveraged our deep expertise in lighting for the Internet of Things and global footprint to offer this truly game-changing technology. Furthermore, we have developed LiFi as a global solution, for which we are actively participating in standardization and in the ecosystem of providers, integrators and hardware suppliers.

Through our efforts to grow LiFi in the market, we already have secured seven pilot installations in India across different segments, including Banks, Information technology, Co-Working spaces, B2G and Infrastructure clients amongst others. We were also specially invited by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Government of Gujarat to showcase LiFi as a Futuristic Technology at the recently held Vibrant Gujarat summit which received 25,000 delegates, including Central and State Ministers, several corporate houses and government officials.

Globally as well, LiFi is attracting considerable interest as an alternative or complementary technology to radio frequency wireless communication for specific applications because of the increasing congestion of the radio spectrum. Some of the major pilot programs we have installed are at Atea, the leading IT infrastructure company in Stavanger, Norway, Telecoms Company Orange in Paris, France, and Republic Polytechnic in Singapore.

Who is your target audience in the Indian Market?

There is a lot of potential for LiFi in India, as millions of Internet devices are being added into the connected ecosystem every day, resulting in radio networks becoming congested. With more and more digital content being consumed through mobile devices, in the future, consumers will also demand a faster Internet connection that can be easily enabled through LiFi.

For businesses and organizations that require the next level of Internet connectivity, Signify’s LiFi systems offer a perfect solution. Through our systems, one can have access to everything from light sources and modems to personal access keys. We utilize our expertise to industrialize the production of LiFi and make it truly the next level in connectivity.

LiFi has multiple applications and can offer a stable Internet connection. It is especially useful for areas where radio frequencies may interfere with equipment, such as in hospitals and factories, or where WiFi signals are poor or can’t reach, such as underground places.

In addition to better and uninterrupted connectivity, LiFi can be used in high-security environments as it adds an extra layer of security as light cannot pass through solid walls and a line-of-sight to the light is needed to access the LiFi network. It offers a secure, personal connection for anyone concerned about data privacy. User cases include environments demanding high security such as the back office of a financial institution or government service.

LiFi is safe for the human body, as it doesn’t generate an electromagnetic environment like other wireless systems. Hence it can be easily used in sensitive environments like schools and hospitals.

What are some of the challenges associated with expansion in a market like India and how do you plan to overcome that?

LiFi is a new and upcoming technology. At this stage, it is crucial for end users, as well as the ecosystem around those customers to get familiar with the technology and become aware of the numerous benefits of the solution. We have set up a demo for LiFi at our Gurgaon HQ in India and are in the process of setting up a lot of first (small) installs in various applications to stimulate and accelerate this as well.

Leading players like Jio GigaFiber are already aggressively expanding to make their presence felt in the FTTH market. What would your GTM be?

We are not competing in the FTTH market; however, we can team up with players in this field to offer end-to-end solutions, where LiFi in the future can be the extension of the fiber network. But currently, our focus is mainly the B2B market, where we can operate in combination with fiber, copper, or cellular data connections.

Our Go-to-Market strategy is to be connected directly to the end user, to have access to the best insights on their needs and experiences, and consequently offer solutions that meet their specific requirements. At the moment, we are trying to target a wide and diverse set of user applications and industries as pilots for our LiFi systems, so that we can highlight its benefits across a wide spectrum of industries and applications.

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