Infrared light could someday deliver super-fast WiFi
WiFi has become essential to our everyday lives, which is why slow speeds piss us all off. Luckily, a PhD student in the Netherlands has come up with a potentially groundbreaking idea: using infrared rays to carry wireless data to your laptop or smartphone.
The capacity of the proposed system is massive, with more than 40 gigabits per second possible per light ray. Contrast that with current 802.11ac, which can transmit up to 1 gigabit per second. This new infrared system can target multiple devices at once, is cheap to set up and doesn’t have any issue with radio interference, unlike traditional WiFi. The research team has only tested download speeds and only across short distances, but the potential is clear.
This new concept won’t simply outstrip current WiFi speeds and provide interference-free connections. There are no moving parts here, making power requirements much lower. “Light antennas” radiate infrared light rays at different angles to accurately target many enabled devices at once without getting congested. Of course, since infrared won’t go through walls, you’ll need an antenna in each room. Infrared light is harmless to the human eye, so you won’t have to avert your gaze, either.
Other light-based WiFi solutions have been limited to slow speeds in the past and relied on LED bulbs. Keeping the lights on all the time seems untenable at best, and it’s pretty easy to block regular light with your hand. This much more robust infrared light concept earned Joanne Oh her PhD at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.
Other PhD students at the university are working on ways to track the location of wireless devices, while still others are figuring out how to connect the light antennas with fiber-optics. Project head Tom Koonen thinks it won’t be too long before we see this technology in stores and in our homes, estimating a short five years until we start seeing light-enabled WiFi devices like laptops and video monitors.