The development of Wi-Fi -- wireless fidelity -- put a crimp in the ethernet business but allowed laptops and tablets to roam freely anywhere they could get a signal and made smartphone broadband reception economically feasible.
Now a new technology called Li-Fi -- or light fidelity -- is promising to do the same at speeds exponentially faster than Wi-Fi, up to 224 gbps.
There are, as usual, advantages and disadvantages. The major advantage, besides much higher speed, is that since Li-Fi uses light emitting diodes (LED) instead of radio waves to transfer signals; it doesn't suffer or cause interference from or to other radio signals.
The disadvantage, however, is a big one. Since it uses light to transmit data, Li-Fi is basically what radio engineers call "line of sight" -- the transmitter and receiver must be able to "see" each other.
Open plan office?
This could be a boon for open-plan houses and offices but not so great for those surrounded by walls. Oh, by the way, it won't work in bright sunlight either, for obvious reasons. No more going outside to enjoy a balmy day.
One way around this, of course, would be to wire your house with fiber optic cable at rather vast expense so you can put a wireless Li-Fi router in each room. That, of course, pretty much gets us back where we started -- stringing wires everywhere.
But a New Delhi, India, company called Velmenni is promoting a way around that hurdle, basically by building Li-Fi into LED light bulbs, in effect creating a hotspot in each room.
The Li-Fi concept has been around for a while, and Velmenni is not alone in looking for ways to commercialize it. Its light-bulb concept eliminates some of the interconnection issues but apparently holds speeds down to about 1 gbps, which is roughly what a high-end wired connection can deliver.
Even without the 224 mbps speeds, however, Velmenni aruges that its brand of Li-Fi could be a boon in areas where Wi-Fi interference is a problem. It can also solve some security issues, since Li-Fi signals don't pass through walls.
It would also be beneficial for those who claim to be allergic to Wi-Fi signals, a small but growing group.