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Developer Chase Fromm discovered a hidden reference to ‘LiFiCapability’ while examining code for iOS 9.1. This suggests future versions of the iPhone could support the cutting-edge technology that uses light, rather than radio waves, to transmit information.
Light Fidelity (Li-Fi) is a bidirectional communication technology that uses light waves generated by LEDs to transfer data at speeds of up to 224 Gbps, or 100 times faster than normal Wi-Fi. This would allow users to download HD movies in a matter of seconds.
Harald Haas, of the University of Edinburgh, coined the term ‘Li-Fi’ during his TED Global Talk entitled ‘Wireless Data from Every Light’.
Light waves are already used to transmit information through fibre-optic cables at high speeds, but transmitting through the air is more difficult since there is no physical medium to direct the signal from source to destination.
Visible Light Communication (VLC) works by rapidly switching LEDs on and off. Li-Fi LEDs can be dimmed to below human visibility while still emitting sufficient light for data transmission.
A major advantage of Li-Fi is that it generates no electromagnetic interference, making it especially well suited to use in electromagnetic-sensitive locations such as hospitals, aircraft cabins, and nuclear power plants.
And because the visible light spectrum is 10,000 times greater than the radio frequency spectrum, Li-Fi has practically no limitation on capacity, unlike the Wi-Fi spectrum, which is already highly congested.
One downside to Li-Fi is that signals cannot travel through solid objects like walls, meaning Li-Fi requires a direct line of sight between receiver and transmitter. Furthermore, devices must be no more than three metres apart for a successful transmission, although this shorter range does give Li-Fi greater protection against hacking.
Researchers are investigating ways to make Li-Fi more effective and functional for organisations like Apple, and it’s expected that Li-Fi will be ready for commercial applications by 2020.