The lighting technology giant, Signify aims to establish a market for Li-Fi in the public transportation sector. In a recent move, the lighting major has partnered with an Italian bus and train interior specialist to develop systems that would use light to deliver onboard entertainment programming, and would eventually deliver Internet service.
Under this alliance with Bodio-Lomnago-based Ellamp Spa, Signify would give passengers on private or public buses a touch screen control of video displays mounted on seatbacks. Passengers could also use the controls to order meals and drinks, and to adjust air conditioning and light levels. The two companies are targeting public and private transportation.
All the server-connected movies, TV shows, and other goodies would be delivered via modulated infrared light waves. Li-Fi uses light waves rather than the radio waves of Wi-Fi and cellular service, a technique which proponents say portends faster, more reliable, and more secure service. Sometimes it uses visible light, and sometimes, as is the intention with Signify and Ellamp, it uses infrared. But Li-Fi, which is just a few-year old technology, has yet to crack mainstream use. It received a big publicity boost recently when Air France deployed it on a one-off basis on a commercial flight from Paris to Toulouse.
Signify was not part of that trial, although it has teamed with the flight’s Li-Fi integrator, Latécoère, and with South Korean aerospace firm Huneed Technologies to develop Li-Fi for commercial aviation service using Signify’s Trulifi brand. At the time of announcing the aviation alliance, Signify identified the transportation sector including airlines, buses, and trains as a potential market. It repeated that assertion with Ellamp.
According to Olivia Qiu, chief innovation officer at Signify, the whole world is on the verge of a new era of connectivity. “Imagine having reliable, secure, and fast connectivity, wherever there is light. That is the promise of Trulifi — the ability to provide people with the same high-quality and secure connectivity experience whether they’re aboard a bus, train, airplane, or on the ground,” he has been quoted as saying in a report. According to Signify, one of the advantages of Li-Fi over Wi-Fi on a bus is that Li-Fi delivers a more stable signal that is not susceptible to jostling movements the way Wi-Fi does.
In another such development, Signify and Ellamp have come together to trial the Li-Fi service, where Ellamp develops the interior systems on transportation vehicles such as buses and trains. As reported by a news portal, anticipating healthy appetite from bus as well as train operators, Signify has plans to announce the companies which are involved in onboarding the technology at a later stage. These deployments are not intended to provide Internet service unless telecommunications providers enable broadband support to moving vehicles.
At that point, passengers would likely have to attach a USB Li-Fi receiver (a dongle) to their laptop or other gadget to use Internet service. Laptop and gadget makers have yet to embed Li-Fi chips into their devices the way they have with Wi-Fi. The absence of native Li-Fi on devices has held back its uptake.
Part of the problem is that an indecisive standards battle is dragging on, between backers of protocols from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics (IEEE) Engineers on the one hand, of protocols from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on the other. Chipset prices remain high in the meantime.
In one small step forward, Taiwanese ruggedised laptop maker Getac recently announced that it is considering embedding Li-Fi chips from Edinburgh, Scotland-based pureLiFi, which uses IEEE technology unlike Signify which prefers ITU.