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Fast Moving Li-Fi Has The Real Estate & Tech World Wondering, "Has Wi-Fi Met Its Successor?"

Li-Fi is an exciting emerging technology that’s got the communications technology world talking. By transmitting data by modulating LED lights and using a light detector as a receiver, Li-Fi is extremely fast compared to Wi-Fi, being able to stream up to 224 gigabits per second compared to 100 gigabits achievable by the world’s fastest Wi-Fi network. It also has great security benefits as it is harder to intercept the signal outside of the building. There are potential cost advantages too as ordinary LED lights can be used lowering operational and maintenance costs, although this will depend on the router and receiver costs once production at scale is reached. While the first solutions launched in the commercial market in 2014, Verdantix expects the technology to make serious advances towards broad commercialisation in the next few years as the cycle of product innovation, consolidations and partnerships accelerates.

Only in 2017, we have witnessed three significant acquisitions and partnerships. Back in February, technology provider Philips Lighting acquired the French Li-Fi start-up Luciom, and in September Scottish Li-Fi firm pureLiFi, partnered with LED lighting provider Wipro Lighting, to provide products for the Asian market. Also in September, French Li-Fi specialist Lucibel partnered with Citelum, part of EDF, to provide a range of LED-based lighting solutions that deliver incremental benefits from better energy performance and Li-Fi communication. In addition, a number of firms such as Cisco, LG, Lucibel, Oledcomm, Panasonic, Rolls Royce, Samsung, Sharp and Toshiba have developed Li-Fi products or are involved in Li-Fi research.

We’re still at an early stage of the market where the products are constantly evolving – witness Lucibel claiming a fourfold improvement in the performance of its solution in the 18 months to September 2016. But the types of firms involved in the partnerships and acquisitions strongly signals that we are on the verge of seeing meaningful market propositions around Li-Fi. So what should the corporate world do about this?

While it is unlikely that Li-Fi is going to replace Wi-Fi in the foreseeable future – with the main barriers being limited communication range and current cost of solution - it can work in conjunction with Wi-Fi allowing small scale pilots and gradual adoption. It’s definitely a technology for firms to keep on their technology roadmap as some of the usage scenarios are getting more proof points, such as using it where radio waves are not allowed (hospitals), or where the density of users is very high. To learn more about Li-Fi and other hot technologies that help customers optimize business operations see our reports 'Tech Roadmap For Facilities Optimization Technologies' and 'Tech Roadmap For Facilities Optimization Software'.