OFC 2017: Fraunhofer IPMS presents Li-Fi technology for setting up wireless company networks

Created March 10, 2017
News and Business

The Dresden, Germany-based 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 Fibre Communication conference and exhibition from 21 – 23 March in Los Angeles, Ca, US.

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.

Increasingly, more companies are looking to expand or completely replace wired local area networks with wireless data networks. Integrating transmission and reception modules 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.

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.

Encrypted networks
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.

The optical wireless communication developed at Fraunhofer IPMS is quite different. Fraunhofer Development Leader Dr. Alexander Noack explained, “Our 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, our 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 percent 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. Dr. Noack added, “Until now, it was not possible for several users to operate in the same spot due to inter-module interferences within the same link. Our technology now allows for point-to-multi-point communication. We can, for example, integrate meeting rooms into a corporate network to provide multiple notebooks simultaneous access.”

The Fraunhofer IPMS will also present its “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, making for easy integration into company networks. Li-Fi HotSpot and Li-Fi GigaDock are available as customer evaluation kits.

Visitors to OFC are invited to stop by the Fraunhofer IPMS exhibition at Booth 3730.

Matthew Peach

This article was written
by Matthew Peach

Matthew Peach is a freelance technology journalist specialising in photonics and communications. He has previously worked for several business-to-business publishers, editing a range of high-tech magazines and websites.