Pure LiFi transmits data using light (video)

Pure LiFi's system sends data wirelessly using light rather than radio waves, with a 'Li-Flame' prototype that knows which light source it's supposed to be receiving data from.

Luke Westaway Senior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
2 min read
First Look
Watch this: Pure LiFi transfers data using light

BARCELONA, Spain -- Transmitting wireless data using radio waves is so old fashioned -- in the video above, you'll see the technology that sends data via light, and could stream Internet video to your TV from a light in your ceiling.

The system works by attaching an Ethernet-wired ceiling-based device to a standard LED light. The data about to be beamed through the air is sent to that bulb, which is instructed to flicker millions of times per second to communicate a signal -- kind of like an extremely speedy morse code.

The light signal -- which looks identical to a normal light -- is picked up by a receiver. We saw the technology streaming video to a TV, and were able to freeze the picture by holding our hand over the receiver, blocking the light's path.

This futuristic object decodes the message hidden within the rapidly-flickering light beam. Sarah Tew/CNET

Pure LiFi has already built a 'Li-1st' device that's able to both send and receive light data (perfect for the Internet), and at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was showing off the 'Li-Flame' prototype, which knows exactly which light source it should be receiving data from.

That's a useful advance. With plenty of light sources in most rooms, this technology will need to be able to figure out which light source is the one it should be 'listening' to.

Pure LiFi believes this technology will become important when we reach the 'spectrum crunch' -- the prophesied point at which we run out of spectrum, and may be forced to find an alternative method of beaming data from one device to another.

The tech is in its infancy, but is certainly interesting. Can you think of any potential benefits or downsides to using light to transmit data? Let me know in the comments below.