High-speed Internet from light? Thanks to an innovative solution devised by Lucibel in September 2016, this is now a reality. After four years of R&D, Li-Fi is now set to make a major impact: already deployed by a number of the company’s partners, the advantages in terms of security could make it an essential technology for sensitive areas such as healthcare, defence and the nuclear industry. We found out more from Edouard Lebrun, Chief Innovation Officer for Lucibel.
Lucibel is a French SMB that designs, manufactures and sells LED (Light Fidelity), technology-based products and services. Their innovative solutions focus on three major development areas: lighting, wellness with circadian lighting technologies, and communication via light.
-> Also on our blog: an Frederic Granotier: LED is disruptive technology that will soon replace traditional lighting
DIGITAL LIGHTING IN THE SPOTLIGHT
What light-communication solutions do you offer?
In September 2016, we brought out the world’s first industrialised solution using Li-Fi, a bidirectional, high-speed and fully networked wireless communication technology enabling Internet or intranet access. We’re also working on VLC, Visible Light Communication, a unidirectional data transmission application, which can be used for indoor geolocation.
It’s very important to keep this distinction in mind in order to draw an analogy with data transmission technologies using radio waves. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 4G have a number of different uses in different environments: indoor, outdoor, and over varying distances. Wi-Fi is used for communication and Bluetooth for interaction. Similarly, in the field of data transmission technologies using light waves, on the one hand there’s VLC for beacons, for example, and Li-Fi for Internet connection via light waves.
How does Li-Fi work?
Whatever the technology used, VLC or Li-Fi, we use a property of LED (light-emitting diode) which, when an electrical current goes through it, produces light. It’s through this binary modulation – with the diode switched on or off – that we can transmit data.
an apparently ordinary light that can transmit megabytes of data
We can modulate the diode at every high frequency – millions of times a second, too quick to be noticed by the human eye. We can thus send megabytes of data – up to 42 MB per second.
We’ve been at the R&D stage for a little over four years now. In 2015, we deployed prototypes for our partner Sogeprom (property developer and subsidiary of Société Générale). After spending 18 months industrialising the solution, we officially presented it on the Campus Microsoft on 21 September 2016.
What are the advantages of this new technology?
One of the key advantages is security. With Wi-Fi, the radio waves go through walls. Thus, in an apartment building, you can access your neighbours’ Wi-Fi and with some basic IT knowledge you can hack into their PC and tablets. The same applies to companies: an ill-intentioned person standing outside the building with powerful enough antennae could hack into the company Wi-Fi and access their data.
The chief advantage of Li-Fi in this respect is that, unlike radio waves, it doesn’t go through walls. Consequently, it ensures safe, mobile Internet access.
Of course, nothing is completely safe from hackers, who could get into the physical structure, but in order to steal data, the hacker would need to be with the user, under the light from the Li-Fi device.
In what possible ways could it be used?
At the last Security Trophies awards in Paris on 26 September 2016, attended by over 400 professionals from the IT security industry, we won the cybersecurity award. Sogeprom and Nexity now use the solution on their premises. The technology went on sale in September 2016 and we’re now right at the beginning, at the qualification stage with major companies specialising in private or defence security.
In terms of industrialising the product, the idea was to make the light as compact as a traditional light and for it to be controlled via a Building Management System (BMS).
And as it’s also a network access point, it needed to be incorporated into the authentication systems used by IT, so it could be remotely managed, like any other access point.
It’s thanks to these three aspects – compactness, integration into the BMS as a lighting system and into the authentication systems as a network access point that the system can now be qualified and deployed by the traditional players in the building and network industries.
from nuclear power stations to day care centres
Another advantage of the solution, which is more to do with safety as opposed to security, is the fact that it offers Internet mobile access in any environment where there are restrictions in terms of electromagnetic standards, for example, industrial estates, nuclear power stations, hospitals with MRI facilities and operating theatres, etc. From a legal standpoint, it also complies with the French Abeille law (which prohibits Wi-Fi in places where children under three are, such as nurseries or day-care centres). In this case, Li-Fi is a viable alternative.
Also on our blog:
Credits: Andrew_Writer / Flickr.com / Licence CC BY 2.0