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18 May 2017

Discover how Li-Fi technology can brighten your customer experience!

Li-Fi is not well known in the market and is an abbreviation of Light-Fidelity. Just like Wi-Fi, it enables wireless communication by transmitting data. It is often quoted as the new international standard for wireless Internet via light transmissions. 

But how will this disrupt the data market and why is it relevant for marketers? The Li-Fi market size is expected to grow by 80.8% over the next 6 years (1). This booming evolution, combined with its high impact on customer experience in the future, provides confirmation that every marketer should add this technology tactic to their marketing communication toolkit.

What is Li-Fi and how does it work?

Light-Fidelity (Li-Fi) technology offers us a new way to connect to the Internet. As opposed to the commonly used Wireless-Fidelity (Wi-Fi), which uses a router and a radio frequency signal to deliver data, Li-Fi uses LED light bulbs. (2)

Transmitting information by using light isn’t that new. People have been doing it for decades with their flashlights, using Morse code to communicate at night. Li-Fi is based on the same principle. The data from the Internet is sent to an LED lamp that goes on and off very quickly – so quickly that human eye cannot even detect it. These on/off signals are captured by a photo detector and translated into “1” and “0” (binary language). Finally, the signal is amplified and processed so that any device can connect to it. In short, any user can surf the Internet in the same way as with Wi-Fi.

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Why should we use Li-Fi instead of Wi-Fi?

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There are four main reasons for using Li-Fi. The first one is speed. Research carried out in labs have demonstrated that Li-Fi can transmit data at a theoretical speed of 224 Gbps. However, in reality the speed is closer to 1 Gbps. By comparison, Telenet, voted Belgium’s fastest Internet service-provider in 2016, delivers an average Internet speed of only 190 Mbps. (http://www.speedtest.net/awards/be/isp/2016). This means Li-Fi is a thousand times faster than Wi-Fi! This is an important key feature if you take into account the rise in video content, which is expected to contribute almost 70%(3) of Internet consumer traffic in the coming years. The faster you can deliver your data to your user, the more seamless your interaction will run.

The second reason that makes Li-Fi attractive is its price.  To transmit data, Li-Fi uses LED lights, whose average price is around 2 euros, whereas Wi-Fi requires a router, which is more expensive (average price around 30 euros). This technological backbone also makes Li-Fi more power efficient and offers the ability to turn every light source into a data enabler.

The third advantage of Li-Fi is its security. To the best of my knowledge, light cannot go through walls. As a result, the data exchanged using Li-Fi cannot be stolen by hackers. However, this might also be seen as a disadvantage. Indeed, LED lamps are needed in all rooms to maintain the data connection when moving from one room to another.

Finally, the fact that Li-Fi uses light to transmit data (and not waves) makes its signal much more resistant to electromagnetic interferences. This means that the Li-Fi signal represents fewer risks of being interrupted or of interfering with other waves. As a result, it could be used in another type of environments, offering another type of ‘customer’ service. Examples are usage in aircrafts, in closed rooms in hospitals or even under water!  This difference in data transmitting technology also makes Li-Fi healthier for humans, reducing our contact with potentially harmful waves.

Why should marketers care about Li-Fi?

Just imagine if all the sources of light that surround us in our daily lives were to become data transmitters. This would lead to an unlimited number of applications for Li-Fi and offer numerous possibilities for marketers. Some hands-on examples are given below:

  • In the near future, two cars would be able to communicate with one another (i.e. vehicle-to-vehicle communication). The headlight of one car will communicate with the rear light of the car in front of it. This is a practical use of machine-to-machine communication that could help humans to prevent accidents. Take this one step further and integrate the same LED bulbs in street lighting and traffic lights and you can see Li-Fi implementations as a key accelerator in building driverless car experiences in which the user can focus on the environment instead of on the driving experience. This opens an additional communication channel and connection moment.

  • The “Grand Curtius” museum in Liège has already implemented Li-Fi in its art gallery to create a unique digital customer experience. Visitors can capture unique messages and additional information by standing under an LED lamp close to a piece of art. This adds a fun dimension to the visit since messages can be sent to any device in all types of formats: video, image, text and so on.  Imagine what it would be like if this concept were to be taken outdoors! While waiting for their bus under a street lamp, passengers could capture data such as ads, new music or even information about the bus timetable. This technology is speeding up the process of building ‘connected cities’, with hotspots everywhere.

  • Carrefour in France is also convinced by the positive impact of this technology and has begun implementing it in one of its stores. Li-Fi helps customers to geo-localize in the store, find the latest promotion, receive extra information about specific products and so on. It can be seen as a viable alternative to iBeacon technology, which failed to make this customer experience change. In the video below Carrefour shows the extra value it brings to its customers:  


This practical example illustrates that Professor Harald Haas’ ambition, which is that “all the world’s light becomes data”, isn’t that far off any more.

There is a close link between marketing and technology: AI, AR, VR, IoT, 3D printing, etc. The list is getting longer and longer. Li-Fi will become an exponential enabler for the growth and adoption of many of these technologies. A great deal of effort is being put in miniaturizing the technology now, so that tomorrow we can move from mobile networks to Li-Fi networks that are enabled by any device around us.

 References:

Although Li-Fi seems quite new in the marketplace, it was mentioned the first time in 2011, during a TED Talk given by Professor Harald Haas. Today, he is the co-creator of pureLiFi, a company specializing in Visible Light Communications (VLC) technology. Click here to see a short video in which Haas gives an introduction about this revolutionary technology.

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