Will laser Li-Fi leave LED in the dust?

Jan. 21, 2022
That’s a provocative question considering the lack of large-scale adoption of the communications technology thus far. But new projects and market intelligence indicate a growing interest.

While a combination of advances in LED optics, phosphor formulations, and architectures has enabled the steady uptake of solid-state lighting (SSL) with improved light quality, one of the key areas we have been watching is the application of light-emitting technology to scenarios that don’t involve general illumination.

As many readers know, our Mark Halper has kept an eye on Li-Fi technology leveraging visible-light communications devices to transmit data and provide Internet or network connectivity, rather than the radio waves delivered by Wi-Fi.

Proponents say Li-Fi has the potential to increase data speeds, reduce the load on Wi-Fi networks, and implement more secure and consistent communications transmissions in transportation applications such as mass transit systems or passenger airplanes. According to market research firm Mordor Intelligence, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of wireless traffic has been 60% over the past 10 years. And the analysts forecast the Li-Fi market to grow at a CAGR of nearly 70% over the period from 2021–2026.

Although its emergence has been slow, it seems there is more room for optimism that Li-Fi will prove worth the investment. We may in fact see it become more aligned with connected systems in smart buildings, too, as ageing infrastructure is replaced and low-voltage power technology becomes more widespread. There’s a convergence here between communications and energy efficiency needs we’re going to keep watching.

Lots to learn in Li-Fi

This past week, Mark tracked a school installation that uses infrared (IR)-based Li-Fi tech to supplement its conventional Wi-Fi connectivity. Integrator June Lite installed Signify Trulifi LED transceivers into luminaires at Lawrence Woodmere Academy but did not opt for visible-light SSL fixtures as part of the project scope.

Later in the week, Mark reported on a development from CES —a demonstration by Kyocera SLD Laser (KSLD) that transmitted data at 100 Gbps via a laser-based Li-Fi system. Now of course that was during a demo and not necessarily indicative of real-world results. But it’s compelling; we could see laser technology take off in the long term instead of LED in this application, which is an idea that has legs with the likes of LED veteran Shuji Nakamura and Li-Fi pioneer Harald Haas exploring those avenues at KSLD.

CARRIE MEADOWS is managing editor of LEDs Magazine, with 20 years’ experience in business-to-business publishing across technology markets including solid-state technology manufacturing, fiberoptic communications, machine vision, lasers and photonics, and LEDs and lighting.

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About the Author

Carrie Meadows | Editor-in-Chief, LEDs Magazine

Carrie Meadows has more than 20 years of experience in the publishing and media industry. She worked with the PennWell Technology Group for more than 17 years, having been part of the editorial staff at Solid State Technology, Microlithography World, Lightwave, Portable Design, CleanRooms, Laser Focus World, and Vision Systems Design before the group was acquired by current parent company Endeavor Business Media.

Meadows has received finalist recognition for LEDs Magazine in the FOLIO Eddie Awards, and has volunteered as a judge on several B2B editorial awards committees. She received a BA in English literature from Saint Anselm College, and earned thesis honors in the college's Geisel Library. Without the patience to sit down and write a book of her own, she has gladly undertaken the role of editor for the writings of friends and family.

Meadows enjoys living in the beautiful but sometimes unpredictable four seasons of the New England region, volunteering with an animal shelter, reading (of course), and walking with friends and extended "dog family" in her spare time.