For the last few years, we've been hearing about a new technology dubbed "Li-Fi." The idea is that instead of using radio waves to send information like Wi-Fi does, Li-Fi uses light pulses to transmit information. The light pulses are way too fast for the human eye to detect, but electronic gadgets can easily pick them up.
The big advantage of Li-Fi is that it can transmit information up to 200 gigabits per second, where Wi-Fi is barely able to get past 1Gbps. Of course, Wi-Fi is steadily improving, but it still has a ways to go before it hits those speeds. And that isn't Li-Fi's only advantage.
With Li-Fi, it doesn't matter how many gadgets are in range; it could be one or thousands. Wi-Fi is restricted to a few dozen gadgets, meaning when there are hundreds of people in a small area, the network slows to a crawl.
That makes Li-Fi great for office environment, shopping malls, airports, stadiums and other crowded venues. It could also be good in airplanes and buildings that don't play nicely with radio waves. Hospitals are also interested in it, because the radio waves from Wi-Fi can interfere with medical equipment.
So, if Li-Fi is that great, why hasn't it taken over yet? It actually has been undergoing trials in France for the last year, along with Belgium and Estonia. There are also rumors that Apple is going to build Li-Fi into the upcoming iPhone 7.
However, there are still some obstacles. The first is that Li-Fi requires LED lights to work, and special equipment has to be hooked into the lights. So, it is an additional expensive, although with many companies and venues upgrading to LED lighting anyway, this is actually not too big of a drawback.
The bigger hurdle is that gadgets have to be directly in the light to connect. So, accidentally getting between the gadget and the light, or even turning the gadget over, will break the connection.
Also, unlike radio waves, light doesn't go through walls. That means Li-Fi only works in rooms that have the lights on. That could be a good security measure, but it also means that you have to leave the lights on in any room that needs to have Internet. That isn't much of a problem for companies, but for home use it could be a concern.
Finally, Li-Fi is something of a one-way street. While it can push out information to gadgets at high speeds, gadgets need special lighting add-ons to communicate back. So, in an airport, Li-Fi would be a good way to push the departure board information, airport maps, movies, and more to gadgets, but most people aren't going to be able to ask it to pull up a specific website.
Still, researchers are continuing to work out the kinks, and it seems to work well in the place its been tested. So you could be seeing it here in the U.S. in a few short years.