The Business Academy Bexley is trialling the visual light communication technology as part of a lighting upgrade in which it has retrofitted T5 luminaires with LEDs from 8point3 LED, together with a new control system from Lutron. The upgrade is expected to cut about 60 per cent off the school's lighting bill.
The Li-Fi system, being trialled in one classroom, has been provided by Edinburgh-based PureVLC. The technology uses invisible modulations of the white light from LED fittings to provide a wireless internet connection which it is hoped will be faster and more reliable than the current system, and enable new functions.
Harald Haas of PureVLC told Lux: 'We are truly excited to unveil the first practical application of Li-Fi in any educational environment in the UK, or indeed the EU.’
The Li-Fi system could help teachers share materials with students in a more targeted and secure ways, says Haas. ‘The modern way of teaching is moving to online courses and classes. There’s a lot of material that teachers want to distribute to pupils in a classroom, and with Li-Fi this can be done via an intranet or an intra-classroom environment where the information is only streamed in a certain location. Every luminaire would be able to provide independent data, so if you have a student sitting in the front row and a student sitting in the back row, you could provide them with different content.’
Haas also hopes that students and teachers at the school with come up with new ideas and suggestions for how the technology can be developed. ‘They may come up with an application we didn’t think of,’ he said.
Sam Elms, chief executive of the Business Academy Bexley, said: 'The thing that really excites me is that we're at the forefront. That's where we need to be, because if you don't do it, things never get developed.'
Ten years ago the school was the first academy to be built in the UK, but came in for criticism for the new building's poor energy performance. Since then it has taken extensive steps to turn this around, including a 600kW biomass boiler, a 600kW solar array, and a voltage optimisation system, as well as the LED lighting.