The Dresden Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems IPMS will introduce Li-Fi communications modules meant to expand or replace existing company data networks at the 2017 Optical Fiber Communication (OFC) Conference and Exposition from 21–23 March in Los Angeles.
The point-to multi-point-capable optical technology combines the speed, stability and security of wired infrastructures with the flexibility and cost advantages provided by wireless radio solutions.
Out with LANs
Increasingly more companies are looking to expand or completely replace wired local area networks (LANs) with wireless data networks. Integrating transmission and reception modules (access points) into existing network structure is considerably more cost effective than connecting computers with cables. Easily integrated into the network, these modules make employees more flexible and mobile as they are able to quickly access the Internet as well as real-time corporate data from anywhere in the company.
Wifi solutions no longer adequate
Currently available wireless (wifi) solutions, however, cannot meet all expectations. Susceptible to interference, wireless data transmission is less stable and slower when compared to cabled solutions, particularly in situations where transmission speed is impacted because multiple users must share a common radio cell. More importantly, wifi networks are vulnerable with even encrypted networks being relatively simple for experts to crack. Hackers can, for example, spy on passwords and login information from wireless transmission packets. In cases of damage, companies are solely responsible for their own wifi network and must bear the corresponding costs.
Fraunhofer’s Li-Fi solution
The optical wireless communication developed at Fraunhofer IPMS is quite different: The solution uses light in the infrared range as a wireless transmission medium. While physical obstacles such as thick walls only weaken radio signal performance allowing attackers to gain sensitive company data via a receiver within range of the radio signal, the new Li-Fi network provides security against hacking attacks even in closed rooms.
Not only is the Fraunhofer IPMS communications technology safer than radio transmission techniques, it also needs only 15% of the energy required by conventional wireless technologies per transmitted user data byte and is up to 10 times faster thanks to a data rate of 1 gigabit per second at insignificant bit error rates (<10-9). It is therefore particularly suitable for all areas of application in which large amounts of data must be transmitted practically in real time.
The Fraunhofer IPMS team was also able to eliminate a widespread weak spot in Li-Fi technology. Until now, it was not possible for several users to operate in the same spot due to inter-module interferences within the same link, the Institute points out. The new technology now allows for point-to-multi-point communication. For example, meeting rooms can be integrated into a corporate network to provide multiple notebooks simultaneous access.
Fraunhofer IPMS at OFC 2017
Fraunhofer IPMS will present a Li-Fi HotSpot as a prototype for optical wireless communication for distances up to 10 meters at the 2017 Optical Fiber Communication (OFC) Conference and Exposition from 21–23 March in Los Angeles, California (US), at Booth 3730. Fraunhofer IPMS will also present the so-called „GigaDock“ technology for smaller distances. With bandwidths of up to 12.5 gigabits per second, the real-time technology aims to supplement or replace stationary cable connections in highly automated production environments. The driverless send-and-receive module combines an optical transceiver and a protocol controller with a Gigabit-Ethernet interface, facilitating integration into company networks. Li-Fi HotSpot and Li-Fi GigaDock are available as customer evaluation kits.