Chinese scientists light new path to the internet

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Forget WiFi, Connect to the Internet Through Lightbulbs

Forget WiFi, connect to the Internet through lightbulbs

Chinese scientists have created a revolutionary way to connect to the internet using LED-based lightbulbs, Xinhua reports. Coupled with special microprocessors embedded in the bulbs, four computers were capable of connecting to the internet at very high speeds: 150 megabits per second, the speed of a typical FiOS fiberoptics connection. They call if LiFi, for Light Fidelity.

The research team at the Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences says that this could change the way computers, tablets and telephones communicate, making wireless networks really inexpensive, more energy efficient, and completely ubiquitous. Basically, anywhere there’s a LED lightbulb there will be internet.

Four computers under a one-watt LED lightbulb may connect to the Internet under the principle that light can be used as a carrier instead of traditional radio frequencies, as in WiFi, said Chi Nan, an information technology professor with Shanghai’s Fudan University, on Thursday.

A lightbulb with embedded microchips can produce data rates as fast as 150 megabits per second, which is speedier than the average broadband connection in China, said Chi, who leads a LiFi research team including scientists from the Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

With LiFi cost-effective as well as efficient, netizens should be excited to view 10 sample LiFi kits that will be on display at the China International Industry Fair that will kick off on Nov. 5 in Shanghai.

The current wireless signal transmission equipment is expensive and low in efficiency, said Chi.

“As for cell phones, millions of base stations have been established around the world to strengthen the signal but most of the energy is consumed on their cooling systems,” she explained. “The energy utilization rate is only 5 percent.”

Compared with base stations, the number of lightbulbs that can be used is practically limitless. Meanwhile, Chinese people are replacing the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs with LED lightbulbs at a fast pace.

“Wherever there is an LED lightbulb, there is an Internet signal,” said Chi. “Turn off the light and there is no signal.”

However, there is still a long way to go to make LiFi a commercial success.

“If the light is blocked, then the signal will be cut off,” said Chi.

More importantly, according to the scientist, the development of a series of key related pieces of technology, including light communication controls as well as microchip design and manufacturing, is still in an experimental period.

The term LiFi was coined by Harald Haas from the University of Edinburgh in the UK and refers to a type of visible light communication technology that delivers a networked, mobile, high-speed communication solution in a similar manner as WiFi.


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