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Signify goes after Wi-Fi with range of Li-Fi office lighting

Although analyst Gartner has urged IT departments to approach Li-Fi with caution, the use of light as an alternative to Wi-Fi is set to gain momentum

Signify, the company that took over Philips Lighting, has updated its list of Li-Fi products with a new range of office and industrial lighting for organisations looking for secure, reliable wireless network connectivity.

The Trulifi family of products from Signify uses light to transmit and receive encrypted data. In practice, laptops and other devices require a Li-Fi USB dongle to connect wirelessly to luminaires mounted in the ceiling with built-in Li-Fi modules, which are connected to structure Ethernet cabling.

Signify said the new range comprises Trulifi-enabled luminaires providing wireless connectivity at speeds up to 150Mbps over large spaces, such as meeting rooms and office floors. There is seamless handover between each Trulifi-enabled luminaire, enabling users to roam around.

The Trulifi 6002 series is designed for offices, healthcare, hospitality and transport markets using Li-Fi systems with two-way infrared light. Signify said this product supports bandwidth up to 150Mbps with an infrared beam of about 2.2m diameter per transceiver at 2m height, which is the average height of desks in a typical office space.

The Trulifi 6013 Li-Fi system uses two-way coloured light to provide up to 250Mbps bandwidth to connect devices up to 8m away.

Signify hopes to build market momentum around Li-Fi by integrating the technology into office lighting, but it is still regarded as relatively unproven technology.

Analyst Gartner noted in 2018: “Li-Fi has many limitations and will be adopted slowly, if at all. Technology product management leaders should invest cautiously and focus on those areas in which Li-Fi-enabled products have advantages over more widely available and flexible technologies, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular.”

For Signify, the primary benefits of Li-Fi are security and reliable bandwidth.

Ed Huibers, head of business development at Signify, said: “The wireless spectrum is getting quite full. We have found that in the past few years, we can communicate in the same way as Wi-Fi  by modulating light. The principal is not new. But now we are able to bring it up to usable speeds for office work and we are integrating these Li-Fi modules into light fittings.”

According to Huibers, in most applications Li-Fi is as fast as, if not faster than Wi-Fi. “If you buy a 1,000Gbps Wi-Fi  router, it is shared with 100 people,” he said. “There is contention. From a user perspective, in most applications, you will get 10-150Mbps connectivity. Li-Fi also has a much higher level of reliability, unlike Wi-Fi, which is a very unstable connection.”

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Another benefit, according to Huibers, is that Li-Fi can only be used within buildings and the signal leakage is limited to how far the light from the luminaires can travel, which he said makes it a good choice within internal government and financial institute networks, where Wi-Fi may not be available because of security concerns.

Up to 16 devices can connect to each Li-Fi module, which means there is less network contention than with Wi-Fi connectivity. Huibers said this has benefits in application areas where fast, reliable connectivity is needed. One example is in media, where users may need to transfer large files back and forth between mobile workstations and central file severs connected to the internal corporate network.

Belgian marketing and communications agency Claerhout Communication Campus has retrofitted Trulifi into four connected Philips LED luminaires in a large meeting room in its office in Ghent, which is used by the company and its clients.

Christoph Ruys, business development manager for the company, said: “We wanted good-quality, energy-efficient lighting and wireless connectivity capable of handling high-resolution images, artwork and big data files. We have gone from offering our staff and clients 5Mbps to 150Mbps, and we can roam around freely as one light point hands off to another seamlessly.”

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