LiFi- Coming to a Smart City Near You

The Paris Metro is now Li-Fi enabled thanks to Oledcomm, a Paris-based leader in Li-Fi implementations. Sixty-six stations have been retrofitted with LED and Li-Fi technology, allowing passengers to now enjoy data downloads that are “faster than a speeding bullet [train]”, while simultaneously affording the Metro officials the ability to push traffic and safety messages to commuters (if you are new to Li-Fi you might want to check out our overview of the technology here before reading further).

With a growing number of successful Li-Fi projects under their belt, Oledcomm seems intent on capturing the lion’s share of the 14 billion bulbs that will ultimately be converted to LED, and making them Li-Fi capable to facilitate a world of opportunity for application developers, service providers, marketers, and more. Clearly the future of Li-Fi is bright.

But who will own this space in the future in unclear. It has been projected to be a $75+ billion industry by 2023, and yet there are no obvious players driving adoption. Phillips recently acquired a French Li-Fi company called Luciom and is rather quietly developing new capabilities, while Pure LiFi, the company whose founder, Professor Harald Haas, is often credited with having invented the technology, seems content to continue refining and improving the technology. Based on patents filed alone, Samsung seems to be the leader with a whopping 26 applications. That said, Apple (Samsung’s arguably greatest friend and foe), has been embedding Li-Fi technology in it’s phones since 2016. From a global perspective, Europe and South Korea appear to have the largest number of deployments, but it is the US that has been driving innovation in LiFi over the past 5 years.

At the same time, the rapidly growing Internet of Things (IoT) industry, another behemoth projected to be a $13 trillion dollar industry by 2025 is in a similar boat when it comes to key stakeholders and potential dominant players.

Will it be the chip/sensor makers like Intel? The data crunchers/AI developers like IBM? The data collectors like Google? The pipe providers like Comcast or AT&T? The network enablers like Cisco? Will Google gobble them all up?

A particularly interesting intersection of LiFi and IoT could potentially play out in various smart city initiatives. From Dubai to Hampton, VA smart cities that have already begun retrofitting existing streetlights with LED replacements are also starting to take advantage of additional benefits like LiFi that the new LED lights can enable.

In the meantime, schools, hospitals, airports, large retail stores, event centers, and offices are the most likely venues for the technology to debut. Using Power Over Ethernet (POE) to install additional (see why converting all facility lighting to POE is not always a good idea) LED lights in an existing facility can significantly reduce the cost and complexity of adding Li-Fi, but cost and general lack of expertise and Li-Fi enabled devices makes today’s Li-Fi implementations very much a niche play. Still, it’s worth considering as you plan your new buildings or retrofits, so that you are ready to take advantage of the technology as it becomes more mainstream.

For electrical distributors like us we are working with our manufacturers and their agents to find opportunities to learn more about the real issues contractors will face with implementations so we can help guide clients in the right directions. Paramont EO is identifying the manufacturers with the best products and highest level of interoperability and flexibility to optimize and supply Li-Fi fixtures and components for local distribution.

For guidance on Li-Fi, IoT, or LED technology for your upcoming project, get in touch with Paramont EO.

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