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article imageiOS source reveals Apple is working to add Li-Fi to the iPhone

By James Walker     Jan 18, 2016 in Technology
References to Li-Fi in the source code of the latest versions of iOS have provided a strong hint that Apple is working on integrating the next-generation wireless tech into future iPhones. Li-Fi uses light to transmit data 100x faster than Wi-Fi.
Li-Fi technology is still far from ready for the mainstream. It was only invented in 2011 and much remains unknown about how it can used for practical data transfers in the future. Some companies have already begun real-world trials of Li-Fi systems though, including in hospitals in northern France.
The discovery of references to Li-Fi in iOS source code suggests at least one of the major smartphone manufacturers is taking the tech seriously. AppleInsider reports the relevant lines in the code first appeared in iOS 9.1 and were noticed by Twitter user Chase Fromm. The code distinctly mentions "LiFiCapability", implying Apple is already developing Li-Fi networking support ready for use in its devices once the technology gets moving.
Li-Fi offers theoretical data throughput of 224 gigabits per second. It uses pulses of visible light to transmit data, converting any light bulb into the equivalent of a Wi-Fi router. The system works by very rapidly turning a light source on and off, creating identifiable pulses that can be interpreted as binary bits by digital devices.
In the future, Li-Fi could be used in homes, offices and other localised spaces. Because it uses visible light as its carrier, Li-Fi signals can't go round corners or through walls though, a problem that can restrict the system's range but also provides extra security in enterprise scenarios by preventing outsiders from tapping the network.
Inventor Harold Haas sees Li-Fi as an easy method to connect the world to the Internet and upgrade existing regions to have ultra-fast wireless connections. Haas explains in a TED talk that existing LED lightbulbs only need to be fitted with a small microchip before serving a dual purpose as a lamp and wireless data router.
The bulb uses signal-processing technology to encode a stream of data into its usual light beam. This data can then be detected, decoded and processed by a photo-detector on the device connected to the Li-Fi access point. The minute changes in the amplitude of the beam of light can be used to form an electrical signal and convert the data back into meaningful digital bits.
Li-Fi doesn't look to become the standard for wireless data transmission anytime soon but it is an intriguing new technology likely to find uses in the future. With Apple appearing to devote time to supporting it in iOS, it's possible we'll all be connecting our smart things to lightbulbs in just a few years' time.
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