A consortium of European organizations has launched ELIoT, an EU-funded project that hopes to develop commercial applications for visible light communications.

The project’s primary concern is Li-Fi – a method of short-distance data transfer that relies on the light spectrum and fancy LEDs rather than radio frequencies, proposed by Edinburgh University professor Harald Haas.

The idea is simple: make the light flicker faster than the eye can see, delivering a stream of 1s and 0s that can be picked up by a nearby photodetector.

Li-Fi is not a new development – if you need proof, see our WTF is… Li-Fi? story published back in 2012 – but despite certain advantages, it has failed to capture the imagination of the public.

Li-Fi is not susceptible to electromagnetic interference, and does not clog up the precious radio channels – something that will be increasingly important as our homes and offices get invaded by hundreds of additional connected devices. It could also be more secure: no chance of hackers infiltrating the network, if they need to be in the room to access it.

Potential drawbacks include short range, low reliability, and high installation costs – unless the technology goes mainstream.

‘Interference free’

“Li-Fi can deliver high-speed communication, interference-free with high reliability. The available spectrum can be fully reused in every room. The lighting infrastructure is in an excellent position to provide wireless connectivity for the rapidly increasing number of wireless devices,” Prof Jean-Paul Linnartz, co-founder of ELIoT and research leader at Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), said this week.

Over the next three years, ELIoT (Enhance Lighting for the Internet of Things) will explore what went wrong with Li-Fi adoption and try to find new and exciting use cases.

The consortium behind ELIoT believes the technology could be used in commercial, industrial, and even outdoor applications, where it could offer high bandwidth, point-to-point connectivity between rooftops or streetlights. It could also function well in controlled environments, where certain radio frequencies are not possible or allowed, like hospitals or airplanes.

The project is part of the Horizon 2020: a €77bn research and innovation programme for 2014-2020, aimed at securing Europe’s global competitiveness, driving economic growth and creating jobs. This is the eighth such program to take place since 1984.

So far, ELIoT brings together 11 businesses and academic organizations, including Nokia, Deutsche Telekom, KPN, the University of Oxford, Eindhoven Technical University, and two Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany: the Heinrich Hertz Institute and the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems.

“ELIoT forms a closed value chain with partners representing the components, chipsets, systems and applications sectors and research institutes, working together on the commercialization of LiFi for the future IoT,” Dr. Volker Jungnickel from Fraunhofer HHI, who serves as the project coordinator, explained.

Back in July 2018, the IEEE announced it was working on the first global Li-Fi standard, hoping to nick most of the specifications from the existing 802.11 documentation. ®

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