First things first:. Yes, you really can plug a special light source into a modem, then essentially use it as a router by rapidly flickering the light at a rate humans can't see (think millions of times per second). Get yourself a device that's equipped to translate those Morse-style light codes into network credentials (and to send transmissions back), and boom, you've just connected to the internet via light bulb.
So, when the French startup Oledcomm comes to CES 2019 and tells you that it's releasing a new overhead light fixture designed to do just that, they aren't pulling your leg. Last year, the company brought , and it worked -- provided, of course, that you had a special dongle plugged into your computer, you sat it directly within the fairly narrow pool of light, and, you know, the light was turned on.
The new overhead light, the LiFiMax, seeks to widen the field of light, promising to cover up to 92 sq. ft. and up to 16 dongle-equipped devices. Oledcomm is pitching it as more of a professional solution compared to the consumer-facing MyLiFi, but says that it will cost roughly as much as the lamp did, with a yet-to-be-finalized price expected to fall below $1,000 (£780 or AU$1,400, converted roughly).
Despite not having the price locked down yet, Oledcomm is now accepting pre-orders for the LiFiMax, which the company says will ship by September of this year. To use it, you'll need to fit the light into a recessed enclosure in your ceiling, then find some way to connect it to your modem via ethernet cable. From there, you'll be able to connect to the internet whenever you're within its pool of light at download speeds of up to 100 Mbps -- again, provided of course that you've got that dongle plugged in.
So why would you want to go to all that trouble for such an impractical means of connection that -- despite several years of development from names like Pure LiFi and Signify -- still hasn't arrived in any real sense? Some would argue that LiFi is more secure, since you can't connect through it from outside of that pool of light. There's also potential for blazingly fast connections -- in lab tests, LiFi technology has shown the potential to reach speeds upwards of 224 Gigabits per second.
We're still not there yet, and neither is Oledcomm -- but like last year, the company deserves credit for getting us one, small step closer at CES 2019. If LiFi ever does become a viable option -- from Oledcomm or from anyone else -- we'll be sure to let you know.
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