PureLiFi, a spin out of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, is developing what it calls ‘LiFi’ technology, an alternative to wireless networking, such as WiFi or 5G, based on visible light communication (VLC). Specifically, the tech uses pulsating LED light, imperceptible to the human eye, as a way of sending data from one LiFi-equipped device to another.
Today the startup is disclosing that it’s raised £1.5 million in a new round of funding led by Scottish-based angel group London & Scottish Investment Partners (LSIP), with additional funding from the Scottish Investment Bank (SIB) and Old College Capital, the venture investment arm of the University of Edinburgh.
This, I’m told, values the 2012-founded company at over £14 million, while PureLifi is currently in the process of raising a full VC round, which it aims to close sometime in the second half of this year. Meanwhile, today’s funding will be used to support the “development and roll-out” of PureLifi’s product roadmap, as well as for various marketing initiatives.
Interestingly, LiFi tech has some advantages over WiFi networks, such as greater security due to its ‘line of sight’ requirements (no snooping on a network from outside a building or the other side of a wall) or being able to use existing lighting infrastructure — think LED street lamps — to double up as LiFi access points.
More broadly, there are a ton of applications where LiFi tech may me preferable over traditional radio-based wireless solutions.
That said, some of its advantages, not least the ‘line of sight’ requirement, are disadvantages too.
Here’s how PureLiFi explains the tech:
When a constant current is applied to an LED light bulb a constant stream of photons are emitted from the bulb which is observed as visible light. If the current is varied slowly the output intensity of the light dims up and down. Because LED bulbs are semi-conductor devices, the current, and hence the optical output, can be modulated at extremely high speeds which can be detected by a photo-detector device and converted back to electrical current. The intensity modulation is imperceptible to the human eye, and thus communication is just as seamless ad RF. Using this technique, high speed information can be transmitted from an LED light bulb.
The company has already begun shipping actual product in the form of “Li-Flame”. It turns off-the-shelf light fixtures into LiFi access points that, coupled with a battery powered LiFi mobile unit attached to a laptop screen, allows users to roam within a room, or potentially an entire building, while being connected.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a video of Harald Haas, CSO and co-founder of PureLiFi, talking at TED all the way back in 2011: