Naval defense firm signs 3-year deal to resell pureLiFi gear

June 5, 2023
Fairbanks Morse Defense didn’t take long to evaluate technicians' use of visible light communications to make onboard repairs via augmented reality. All systems go.

Li-Fi made further inroads into the defense sector, as a Wisconsin naval technology provider is now reselling pureLiFi gear intended to help technicians use augmented reality (AR) glasses for repair purposes.

The three-year reseller agreement comes a couple months after Beloit-based Fairbanks Morse Defense (FMD) and Edinburgh, Scotlandbased pureLiFi said they were working together within FMD’s Defense Accelerator Program to evaluate the technology’s potential.

FMD likes what it has seen. 

It will now market the technology to U.S. maritime defense providers. Ship technicians would don AR glasses to receive repair instructions delivered in the last hop via modulated light waves from pureLiFi’s Kitefin Li-Fi equipped lights, located onboard. The information would originate from a remote instructor. 

Light-based Li-Fi is a long emerging wireless alternative to the established wireless transmission technology of radio-based Wi-Fi. In the pro and con comparison of the two, one of Li-Fi’s advantages is that it is more secure, as it requires line of sight, making it difficult for hackers to access. This adds to its appeal in the military sector, where pureLiFi and others have won contracts 

“The ability to have secure connectivity while at sea is a mission-critical capability for our maritime defense customers,” said FMD CEO George Whittier. “PureLiFi’s technology pairs perfectly with FM OnBoard, enabling technicians to securely communicate from the engine room with live, remote technicians who can help troubleshoot any issues.”

FM OnBoard is FMD’s collection of technologies that support naval repairs using what FMD describes as “3D simulation training that utilizes augmented reality and real-time data mapped from physical engines to digital twins.” The hands-free method increases equipment availability and improves first-time fix rate, FMD says.

In the pureLiFi system, data is transmitted via visible light from a Kitefin luminaire to pureLiFi Halo transceivers, which are attached to a Microsoft HaloLens AR headset.  

Most visible-light Li-Fi systems today use LEDs as their light source. PureLiFi declined to say whether the Kitefin luminaires in FMD’s case employ LEDs or lasers. 

Companies such as Santa Barbara, Calif.based Kyocera SLD Laser have engineered visible lasers to be safe to the human eye. PureLiFi co-founder and chief scientific officer Harald Haas widely regarded as the father of Li-Fi is an adviser to KSLD. Many Li-Fi enthusiasts including pureLiFi regard lasers as the future of Li-Fi because lasers provide much faster transmission speeds.

Still, with eye safety in mind, LEDs could continue to be part of the Li-Fi scene.

While visible light is one form of Li-Fi, another is non-visible infrared, which has advantages over visible light transmission. For example, it can be faster and can avoid having to switch on lights when illumination is not wanted, such as at certain times on a commercial flight.

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

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