Li-Fi Soon to Become the Next Wi-Fi for Industrial Environments

Posted Nov 15, 2017 by Prerit Tomar

Developers at Fraunhofer IPMS believe that Li-Fi technology, the use of light to exchange large amounts of data, will soon pose stiff competition to Wi-Fi networks used in industrial environments. In addition to allowing different users to simultaneously use an access point, the IPMS-developed optical transmission technology also enables each user to communicate with several access points. Therefore, Li-Fi is no longer limited to stationary applications. Fraunhofer IPMS specialists will present this multipoint-to-multipoint-capable technology to the professional public for the first time at the 2017 SPS IPC Drives in Nuremberg from November 28-30.

In the age of smart production, more and more users rely on wireless data transfer between devices used in logistics, industrial manufacturing or machine maintenance. However, those radio solutions (Wi-Fi), which have proven themselves in the consumer sector, quickly reach their limits in highly automated production environments. Wi-Fi networks are susceptible to interference because other wireless methods, such as Bluetooth applications, partially transmit in the same frequency ranges, causing multiple channel assignments and overlapping frequency usages. They are slow as the increased number of users and larger volumes of data to be transferred decelerate both the data rate as well as communication cycle times. Wi-Fi networks are also susceptible to abuse, as it is relatively easy for skilled hackers to crack even encrypted networks.

The Fraunhofer IPMS optical data transmission (Light Fidelity or Li-Fi) performs far better here in every respect. The Li-Fi-Hotspot transceiver system uses the spectrum of light, available free of regulations worldwide, thereby eliminating any interference from radio-based systems. Net-Bandwidths of up to one gigabit per second are much faster than current Wi-Fi wireless solutions. And, even in closed rooms, every Li-Fi network offers security against hacker attacks.

However, optical data transmission also has a systemic vulnerability: the visual axis between transmitter and receiver must remain unobstructed, a significant shortcoming, especially in mobile applications. In order not to be limited to stationary application scenarios when using Li-Fi technology, Fraunhofer IPMS specialists work on so-called multipoint-to-multipoint solutions.

The Fraunhofer IPMS driverless transmit / receive modules combine an optical transceiver and a protocol controller with a Gigabit-Ethernet interface and can be easily combined with standard industrial systems. In order to let customers personally test the benefits of Fraunhofer IPMS Li-Fi technology for a wide variety of applications, the Dresden-based research institute provides its clients with Customer Evaluation Kits.

Fraunhofer IPMS scientists will present the multipoint-to-multipoint-capable Li-Fi-Hotspot as a prototype for optical wireless communication at distances of up to 10 meters for the first time at the 2017 SPS IPC Drives Trade Fair for Electric Automation - Systems and Components taking place in Nuremberg from 28 - 30 November. Fraunhofer IPMS will also present the so-called GigaDock technology for smaller distances. The real-time capable technology with bandwidths of up to 12.5 Gigabit per second is intended to complement or replace stationary cable connections in highly automated production environments.