Q&A: Professor Harald Haas discusses the security potential of Li-Fi

Following on from pureLiFi’s success demonstrating the new light-based data transfer system, Li-Fi, at the Smart Lighting Conference in Barcelona in May 2014, Professor Harald Haas (Chief Scientific Officer of pureLiFi) answers questions about the security potential of this new system for all sectors across Government, business and commerce.

What was the feedback from delegates at the Smart Lighting Conference in Barcelona?

“The lighting industry is moving to a much more services-based approach. The focus is on moving to a ‘Light as a Service’ business model. In this context, Li-Fi offers unprecedented capabilities that can be used as a differentiation within a very competitive industry. The general interest in the demonstration was very positive from a number of the participants and speakers, including the Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer from Phillips, the VP of Research and Innovation with Osram, the Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice-President of Business Development with ARM, the CTO of GE Lighting as well as the President of Lutron Electronics.”

What commercial interest have you had in the system?

“The Li-1st system has been shipped to a number of organisations with interested parties including top companies in defence, aircraft manufacturing, underwater communications, hazardous environments, telecoms and many more. In fact, due to the high demand, pureLiFi has recently undergone a second production run of the Li-1st system.”

Professor Harald Haas

Professor Harald Haas

What are the challenges that you need to overcome to break into the market?

“There are numerous challenges to such a new technology, including the size of the device for desktop/consumer use, higher data rates and lower power consumption, inertia and maturity within the existing RF industry, addressing the retrofit market, introducing more publicly available implementations of the technology, identifying specific ROI for diverse markets and relevant entities and identifying appropriate price points for various markets, etc. However, none of these aspects is insurmountable. All of these challenges can be solved. The wireless industry was faced with similar obstacles in the early days. Today, wireless connectivity is everywhere.”

How do you aim to overcome these challenges?

“Li-Fi, as with many other technologies, must mature before it is readily available such that the price point, form factor, infrastructure and other aspects are well established. Our product roadmap is designed to match the evolving needs of our customers and track market demand. Active Li-Fi demonstrators are in development and due for completion later in 2014. We are targeting markets and applications where Li-Fi is not competing with traditional RF systems. Indeed, no new communications technology has completely replaced the existing one. Much like 4G complemented 3G, which complemented 2G and Wi-Fi complements mobile connectivity, in the longer-term Li-Fi will complement and augment established RF infrastructure.”

In which markets do you hope and expect to gain success at first?

“Li-Fi is likely to be applied initially in niche areas where existing wireless solutions are not practical. These include underwater communications, electromagnetic sensitive environments such as hospitals and petrochemical plants, businesses requiring highly data-secure environments and many more.”

Will you be working with other partners to bring it to market?

“Yes. The opportunities for technological advancement that Li-Fi offers are unprecedented. In addition, Li-Fi will create fundamental changes to many of the existing business models within a number of different sectors, including the lighting industry and telecoms. pureLiFi is creating an ecosystem of partners from diverse markets to facilitate the development, deployment and distribution of Li-Fi systems which in turn will foster the market growth of this emerging technology.”

Li-1st technology

Li-1st technology

What are pureLiFi’s next steps in further developing this technology?

“Technical development will focus on higher data rates, reduced power consumption and miniaturisation. The fully mobile and networked solution (Li-Flame) will be launched in the second half of this year. It should achieve even better data rates and greater versatility. The company is also establishing a number of technology demonstration projects across the UK with a wide range of partners.”

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