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Instant expert: PureLifi

Bright idea: Li-fi puts wireless internet capability into your LED light bulbs

IMAGINE you could see your internet traffic as it flies through the air or that your wireless network was hundreds of times faster — and closing the door to hackers was as simple as, well, closing the door.

That’s the flashy promise being made by Edinburgh-based pureLiFi as it launches its latest ‘li-fi’ tech, which uses light bulbs to transmit data at breakneck speeds.

Right now, wi-fi is how most of us connect to the internet inside our homes, using invisible radio waves to send data between our devices. Li-fi does much the same thing but uses visible light from LED light bulbs instead: think Morse code on steroids.

Data is sent between devices by rapidly altering the LEDs’ brightness, too fast for the eye to see. Line of sight isn’t needed as light naturally bounces off walls and floors, and pureLiFi claims to work both outside in the sun and inside when lights are low.

Li-fi luminaries claim super speeds are achievable, with many hundreds of times more capacity than traditional wi-fi. Security and privacy are enhanced, as light is easier to contain within a room than wi-fi. Li-fi might also appeal to those who are concerned about electromagnetic radiation from wi-fi’s radio waves.

Once, to use wi-fi on a laptop or PC you needed a dongle. That’s largely still the case with li-fi but the PC- and Mac-friendly LiFi‑XC announced this week is the smallest to date. Yet pureLiFi says its goal is to turn every LED light into a li-fi access point and see the tech embedded in every consumer device the way wi-fi and Bluetooth are now.

The future of super-fast downloads looks bright.