Linux adds drivers for pureLiFi

Aug. 12, 2022
The move should facilitate Li-Fi on Android phones and could encourage gadget makers to eventually embed Li-Fi chips.

The organization that updates the Linux operating system has added software drivers to support Li-Fi from pureLiFi, which could bring pureLiFi closer to embedding technology in smartphones, tablets, and other devices. The Android operating system, popular on phones, is based on Linux.

This marks the first time a major operating system has included a Li-Fi driver in an upgrade,” pureLiFi CEO Alistair Banham said in a recent press release from the Edinburgh, Scotland–based company Li-Fi pioneer. “This is another great endorsement for Li-Fi and signals a growing maturity and interest in Li-Fi for broader use.” 

By adding the drivers to the Linux Kernel in the latest release — version 5.19 — the San Francisco–based Linux Kernel Organization should make it easier for gadget makers to embed Li-Fi receivers and transmitters. Today, users have to attach dongles to their devices.

Li-Fi is a Wi-Fi–like transmission that uses modulated light waves or infrared waves rather than the radio waves (RF) of Wi-Fi. If nothing else, it could help alleviate the crowded Wi-Fi spectrum. It is also more secure than Wi-Fi, leading to U.S. Army installations of pureLiFi and Signify communications technology. It avoids electromagnetic interference, which makes it useful not only in crowded Wi-Fi zones but also around hospital gear or factory floor robots. Developers are even working on a method that allows the line-of-sight technology to reach around corners.

With the exception of Taiwanese military laptop maker Getac, by and large, computer and phone makers have not embedded Li-Fi circuitry — whereas Wi-Fi, an older technology, became de rigueur long ago.

A Li-Fi standards debate remains an issue. So does the cost of Li-Fi chips, although if the Linux move encourages embedding, costs should come down as manufacturing volumes increase.

The addition of Li-Fi in the Linux kernel is just the beginning,” Banham said. “We look forward to driving the adoption of Li-Fi and the inclusion of pureLiFi drivers in more operating systems. This is another important milestone in our journey to connecting everything and everyone with Li-Fi.”

Inclusion in Windows and Apple operating systems would be a boon, when and if that happens.

Linux is an open-source operating system with a kernel that developers shape into different versions called “distributions.” Android uses one of them. Other Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu and Fedora, are geared at different types of hardware.

While today’s commercial Li-Fi systems are based on LEDs, lasers augur much faster speeds, which could help usher in the light-based communications technology. PureLiFi itself has acknowledged that “laser light will better serve Li-Fi.”

MARK HALPER  is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

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About the Author

Mark Halper | Contributing Editor, LEDs Magazine, and Business/Energy/Technology Journalist

Mark Halper is a freelance business, technology, and science journalist who covers everything from media moguls to subatomic particles. Halper has written from locations around the world for TIME Magazine, Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, CBS, Wired, and many others. A US citizen living in Britain, he cut his journalism teeth cutting and pasting copy for an English-language daily newspaper in Mexico City. Halper has a BA in history from Cornell University.