In a recent pilot project, the ministry of electronics and IT successfully tested a technology called LiFi (Light Fidelity), which uses LED bulbs and light spectrum to transmit data at speeds as high as 10 GB per second over a 1-km radius.
The idea is to connect difficult terrains of the country that can’t be reached by fiber but have access to electricity. The technology can be used to connect hospitals where regular internet signals interfere with certain equipment as well as to provide underwater connectivity.
“One of the biggest use-cases of LiFi could be in the upcoming smart cities in the country, whose underlying theme will be internet of things for modern city management and will be connected by LED bulbs,” said Neena Pahuja, director general of the Education and Research Network (ERNET), an autonomous scientific society under the ministry, which conducted the pilot.
Smart cities aim to extensively rely on IoT for activities ranging from waste disposal to traffic management.
The pilot project was conducted in association with Indian Institute of Technology Madras at its campus along with lighting company Philips a few months ago. While the pilot was staged in a closed environment, ERNET now plans to test it in open spaces in partnership with Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.
“We are committed to innovation and continue to explore new and emerging technologies,” Sumit Joshi, managing director at Philips Lighting India, told ET.
LiFi technology was pioneered a couple of years ago by Harald Haas, professor of mobile communications at the University of Edinburgh. Since then, companies including Google and organisations such as Nasa have been testing this technology.
Over the past few years, India has experimented with alternative types of technology such as WhiteSpace, which deploys unused spectrum between television channels to relay data.
Google has tested the potential of transmitting data using balloons floating at a height of 20 km using LTE or 4G technology. While WhiteSpace required licensed mobile spectrum and was opposed by the telecom lobby, Google’s Loon project has not made much headway.
LiFi technology, on the other hand, is not dependent on mobile spectrum. It is, however, not bereft of challenges.
Pahuja said that it requires a clear line of sight and can’t penetrate hard objects such as a wall. “The answer to such challenges is to lay down a mesh of lights to ensure that the signal is uninterrupted,” she added.