PHILIPS Lighting will take Li-Fi technology into the mass market, CEO Eric Rondolat has vowed.
Rondolat, speaking exclusively to Lux, dismissed the suggestion that the company’s move into the transmission of data using visible lighting was simply an eye-catching announcement demanded by the conventions of the biennial Light + Building show.
‘I’m dead serious,’ said Rondolat. He promised that Philips – now renamed ‘Signify’ – would license its technology to OEMs, ensuring that the Li-Fi capability could be bundled in luminaires from many brands.
Li-Fi – derived from ‘light fidelity’ – is an emerging technology in which LED lighting provides a broadband Internet connection through light waves.
Its adoption by the market leader could be transformational if Philips put the necessary technical and marketing resource behind it.
It looks unlikely that Li-Fi capability will be your iPhone or Android phone anytime soon, however.
‘It’s not for tomorrow, [we’re] working on it. We don’t have any specific announcement to make. Whenever we’re ready we’ll do so.
‘So let’s go step by step. This is a new technology. For us, we’re investing a lot in it from a reliability standpoint. Data security [too]. We do very intense but also very serious work in terms of data.
‘Handovers are crucial. When you have two light sources, [you need to be] able to move between them without signal interruption.
The technology will probably be bundled in special Li-FI drivers. ‘We’ve always been very clear that whenever we’re developing a very new technology that’s shaping the industry, we make it available.
‘It could be potentially licensed by selling an enabled driver to one of our customers. We’d certainly do that. This [policy] is very consistent with what we’ve done in the past. With the Sensor Ready drivers, they’re not only available for us but they’re available for all our customers.’
Philips’ know-how is derived from its acquisition of the French start-up Luciom in 2014. Luciom is best known for a 'tagging' scheme, which allows individual LED lights to uniquely identify themselves in one-way indoor-positioning systems.
Compared to two-way Li-Fi, indoor-positioning is a more basic form of VLC that sends small amounts of information from a light to a phone or other gadget.
Philips office luminaires enabled with LiFi technology will provide broadband connection with a speed of 30 Mb per second (Mb/s) without compromising lighting quality. With 30Mb/s a user can stream simultaneously several HD quality videos while having video calls.
Li-Fi can be used in places where Wi-Fi radio frequencies could interfere with equipment, such as in hospitals, or where Wi-Fi signals cannot reach or are weak, such as underground.
Other applications include high security environment such as banks and financial institutions, government and diplomatic buildings. Li-Fi adds an extra layer of security as light cannot pass through solid walls and a line-of-sight to the light is needed to access the network.
Another advantage of Li-Fi is that it could add vast spectrum in a world where Wi-Fi bandwidth is rapidly saturating — by some accounts it may broaden the frequency range by 10,000 times. It is an example of the lighting industry’s push beyond illumination into a wider world of digitalisation.
‘Li-Fi has enormous potential for today’s digital age and as the world’s leading lighting company we’re really proud to pioneer this new and innovative service for our customers,’ Philips chief innovation officer Olivia Qiu told Lux.
‘While radio frequencies are becoming congested, the visible light spectrum is an untapped resource with a large bandwidth suitable for the stable simultaneous connection of a vast array of Internet of Things devices. Being a lighting company, we ensure that our customers benefit from the finest quality energy efficient light along with state-of-the-art connectivity,’ she added.
Icade, the French real estate investment company, is already piloting Philips Li-Fi technology in its office in La Defense, Paris.
- A special session on Li-Fi for OEMs will be included in Lux’s Lighting Fixture Design conference, which takes place on Wednesday 20 June and Thursday 21 June 2018 in the Cavendish Conference Centre, London. View the full programme HERE.
Main pic: Ray Molony/Lux. All rights reserved 2018