What is Visible Light Communications?

Visible Light Communications (VLC) and "LiFi" products utilize light spectrum to transmit data, similar to how WiFi transmits data with radio and microwave frequency spectrum. Light spectrum is up to 10,000 times more plentiful than radio frequencies and does not compete or interfere with WiFi or other RF networks. VLC products include point to point, and point to multi-point applications. FireFly has developed both point to point and point to multi-point bi-directional VLC products.

VLC uses visible light between 400 THz (780 nm) and 800 THz (375 nm). VLC uses lights (ordinary lights/lamps) or LEDs to transmit data. Since light from these sources is not detrimental to the human eye/vision, and is immune to radio frequency interference and congestion, VLC technology is emerging as a new, innovative means of transmitting data.

Specially designed VLC electronic devices generally contain a photodiode to receive signals from light sources. The image sensor used in these devices may consist of an array of photodiodes (pixels). Sensors can provide either multi-channel communication or a spatial awareness of multiple light sources. Since indoor/outdoor lights, TVs, traffic signs, commercial displays and even car headlights/taillights are ubiquitous, VLC is growing in popularity, both indoors and outdoors, and is one of the hottest new technology trends.

The market for Visual Light Communications / LiFi

Li-Fi Market Worth $75.5 Billion By 202331st May 2016
Global Insights predicts 80.8 percent CAGR from 2016 to 2023

(Source: http://www.compoundsemiconductor.net/article/99497-li-fi-market-worth-75.5-billion-by-2023.html)

According to a new research report by Global Insights, the Li-Fi market is anticipated to reach $75.5 billion by 2023, growing at 80.8 percent CAGR from its value of $630 million in 2015.

Market drivers are increasing demand for 3G and 4G technology and pressures on RF spectrum, says Global Insights.

Li-Fi operates by turning off-the-shelf LED lights off and on within nanoseconds, which makes subtle changes of brightness invisible to the human eye. This modulated optical output is detected and reconverted to an electrical current by a photodetector.

Since it uses the visible light spectrum, Li-Fi technology is expected to complement Wi-Fi in environments where the latter is not suitable. This includes environments such as healthcare, where data security is paramount.

While visible light communications (VLC) market also includes a solid state emitting device and a photo sensitive receiver, VLC is a unidirectional, point-to-point light communication link operated at low or moderate data rates.

In contrast, Li-Fi does not require line-of-sight between the transmitter and receiver. Also, it is capable of delivering the same or greater data transfer speeds when compared to a Wi-Fi access point.

Internet video traffic is forecast to grow at over 45 percent in the coming years, with video expected to contribute to nearly 70 percent of consumer internet traffic. Increasing data production and usage will lead towards the need for wireless optical networks alongside RF-based networks.

Rising demand from environments such as hospitals, medical centers, and schools are likely to fuel the industry from 2016 to 2023.

Rising LED adoption owing to benefits offered such as longer life span, high efficiency, and low maintenance will also aid in global Li-Fi market growth. Several nations such as the US, Japan and China have taken initiatives for energy conservation with the help of LED lighting technology.

Low degree of awareness regarding the technology may restrain growth in the coming years. Additionally, misconceptions such as the technology being line-of-sight in nature are expected to challenge growth. Industry experts predict the impact of this restraint to lessen over the forecast timeframe with growing consumer demand for wireless connectivity and higher data rates.

LED is expected to exceed $33 billion by 2023, growing at over 79 percent CAGR from 2016 to 2023. Growing regulatory initiatives for energy efficiency has led to increased LED demand, which will drive industry growth in the coming years. Photodetector segment accounted for over 30 percent of the Li-Fi market share in 2015, and is estimated to be the fastest growing component.

In the future, the technology can be integrated into a solar panel to create a self-powered receiver. The panel will receive light from the LED in order to create power, and will receive light from the network so as to act as the broadband receiver. This will open application avenues in rural broadband, backhaul, low-cost beacons, and the Internet of Things.

Location based services accounted for over 40 percent of the global revenue in 2015, and is forecast to grow at 79.5 percent CAGR from 2016 to 2023. The technology is anticipated to enhance users' shopping experience by providing precise location information services. In addition, it also allows pop-ups regarding the recent product offers going on in the store. This helps shop owners by generating a reminder regarding product supply shortage across the store.

Healthcare sector is projected to arrive at over $2.6 billion by 2023. This application segment is expected to grow significantly owing to absence of electromagnetic radiation such as radio waves that poses no threat to patients' health and helps in rendering safe environment in the hospital as well as healthcare facilities. The technology also enables better management as it helps share patient data across different departments at very high speed.

Asia Pacific Li-Fi market size was valued at over $185 million in 2015. The regional growth will be fuelled by need for internet connectivity in underdeveloped countries. UAE Company Zero 1 has outlined plans to roll out Li-Fi service in Silicon Oasis in conjunction with their project partner du.

US Li-Fi market share is projected to grow at 78.0 percent CAGR from 2016 to 2023; it was valued at around $190 million in 2015. The European industry is an early adopter, characterized by considerable research and product development initiatives. High demand for wireless communications across sectors where Wi-Fi cannot be employed will drive growth over the forecast timeframe.

What are the benefits of using Visible Light Communications for data transmission over radio and microwave frequency spectrum?

Spectrum is plentiful: 

​​​Light spectrum is widely available in all locations, compared to radio frequency spectrum which is increasingly congested or unavailable.

Visible Light Communications products are less expensive:

Visible Light Communications uses LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) or other low cost and proven transmission techniques to transmit data, which are much less expensive than many radio frequency transmission methods.

Vastly enhanced security over radio frequency products:

Visible Light Communications and LiFi products are inherently more secure than other data transmission methods, since eavesdropping is virtually impossible, transmissions are short range and generally do not propagate beyond their intended range, and cannot penetrate walls or other barriers, unlike WiFi. This creates an ideal technology for sensitive data communications.

Safe in hazardous environments:

Visible Light Communications can be used in applications where radio spectrum could be dangerous, due to interference with critical electronics and communication networks (Electromagnetic Interference / EMI). Such applications include healthcare/hospitals, nuclear energy plants, airports, aircraft, factories, and utility networks. Visible Light Communications does not create EMI.

Easily integrated into ubiquitous devices

From lightbulbs to automotive headlights to home automation products and other ubiquitous devices, VLC technology can be integrated into the Internet of Things (IOT) more efficiently and cost effectively than radio frequency devices. And in many applications where weight-savings are important, to avoid wiring and other components, VLC use can safe costs in manufacturing and on a recurring basis.

Ideal for location-based data transmissions

Visible Light Communications can be deployed in environments in which location of an individual or equipment is essential to the communication required and timing (e.g., motion control and industrial automation, Machine to Machine / M2M). Examples include a train car arriving at a station, or Automated Guided Carts (AGC) and SmartCart Robots in a manufacturing or distribution facility, or emerging aerial drone communications, or wireless automotive communications within a vehicle or to a base station when parked. Other location-based applications where VLC can be deployed included Point of Sale (POS) communications.

Backup for other wired, fiber optic, or radio frequency networks/devices

Visible Light Communications can be deployed as a backup to other network devices, to improve reliability and provide redundant fail safe operation.