Gamechanging Li-Fi tech could enable higher-performance automotive connectivity
A new consumer and BtoB networking technology is gaining momentum and could eventually have a positive impact on new mobility connectivity.
The first Global Li-Fi Congress was held in Paris in February 2018 to bring together the nascent industry developing around Li-Fi (light fidelity) technology that allows mobile devices (and other connected objects) to connect by using LED lights. Li-Fi transmits data by modulating the light signals from an LED light bulb in a process invisible to the human eye.
One of the biggest proponents of the technology, Oledcomm, announced after the Paris Congress that it is partnering with cybersecurity company WISeKey to provide more secure LI-FI IoT infrastructures and ecosystems. WISeKey’s Root of Trust and Identity technology, combined with VaultIC’s hardware & software system certification, is said to provide a comprehensive, trusted, end-to-end cybersecurity platform for IoT devices.
Earlier at CES 2018, Oledcomm introduced what it claims if the first Li-Fi connected object in the world with the MyLi-Fi, an LED table lamp that won two CES Innovation Awards 2018 in the Tech for a Better World and Smart Cities categories.
Li-Fi technology was created in 2005 by a team including Suat Topsu, who is now President of Oledcomm, which he cofounded in 2012. (The company is run by CEO Benjamin Azoulay, of Philips Hue intelligent-light fame.) It could be used to convert the billions of LED lightbulbs in use today into wireless hotspots delivering connectivity at speeds well beyond Wi-Fi. Oledcomm has used a Li-Fi-enabled lightbulb to transmit data at speeds as fast as 23 Mbps (megabit per second). Laboratory tests have shown theoretical speeds of 224 Gbps (gigabit per second), meaning a high-definition movie could be downloaded within seconds.
The company believes that the progressive replacement of the 14 billion light points in the world by LEDs makes Li-Fi a strong candidate to become the third-generation communication network (after wired and radio networks), and potentially the densest. The first version of the technology became an international standard for wireless communication in November 2011 by the International Telecommunications Standardization Committee.
The technology has been used for B2B purposes such as helping blind people navigate public transport systems, transmitting medical information in hospitals, and measuring travel times in supermarket aisles. Now it is moving into homes and offices as a new form of connectivity that is ultra-fast, secure, and that works without any radio waves.
Beyond speed, Li-Fi has many benefits and potential applications for mobile devices. It is good for public areas where conventional WiFi connections are weak, saturated, and create interference, including offices, hotels, coworking spots, and airport business lounges. Li-Fi connections are said to be much more secure; the signals use visible light and cannot pass through walls, making it impossible to hack a company's internet connection without attacking its firewall. The technology offers an alternative to radio and electromagnetic waves, which are potentially harmful to human health; it complies with France's Abeille Law, which limits public exposure to these waves. It can also reduce energy consumption; as an example, the MyLi-Fi uses only 13.5 W compared to 20 W for a WiFi router.
The low latency and fast reliable connection is attractive to gamers. An Akamai/Pingdom study from 2010 reported that the average WiFi speed in France is 10 Mbps vs. 23 Mbps for MyLi-Fi, ensuring a faster latency or ping speed, the time it takes for a signal to make a round trip from browser to server and back.
It is that low latency that is attractive to the connected auto industry.
At the 2017 Geneva International Motor Show, engineering group Segula Technologies presented a connected concept car called the Hagora Pulse with a Li-Fi-based car-to-car solution integrated into the optics that enables the transmission of information between vehicles to reduce crashes.
The concept was also notable for other innovative technologies.
It claims a worldwide first onboard its concept car with pedestrian detection and visual feedback, which uses a system of cameras embedded in the windscreen to identify pedestrians about to cross in front of the car, take control of the vehicle, and inform pedestrians that they may cross through a visual displayed on the car’s hood.
This technological brick adds to the larger e-sense application, which monitors the medical health of the vehicle's occupants through sensors incorporated into the steering wheel and seats to accelerate medical care if necessary.
Gesture commands, combined with augmented reality, promote the display of information on the windscreen by a simple movement of the driver's head, without removing hands from the steering wheel, nor taking eyes off the road, thus increasing the level of safety while driving.
Another interesting technology called Urban Starc helps to optimize the vehicle's thermal energy, heat the vehicle's cockpit, preheat its engine in winter, and to power a water heater when arriving home. In fact, the engine's heat travelling through the cooling system is stored in order to be reused with no time limitation.