The Scots firm whose LiFi tech could transform our lives

Harold Haas. Picture: submitted
Harold Haas. Picture: submitted
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FEW Scottish firms have such a strong – and literal – claim to being one of the brightest leading lights on the technology scene as pureLiFi.

The Edinburgh University spin-out, which was only formed in 2012, is a pioneer in the use of light to transmit data – LiFi, rather than existing technologies such as WiFi. The idea might seem staggeringly simple – basically using an LED to transmit data and a solar panel capable of detecting subtle fluctuations in light to receive it – but the company attracted around £1.5 million of funding at the end of last year, while Apple has been rumoured to be interested in embracing LiFi

LiFi X. Picture: submitted

LiFi X. Picture: submitted

capability in its iOS 9.0.

According to pureLiFi, the “5G technology” of light-based communication is not only more energy efficient than WiFi; it’s also more secure, thanks to the simple fact that a LiFi receiver has to be in the same room as the transmitter. It’s this simplicity that also has some experts tipping LiFi to be the technology that will really open up the so-called “Internet of Things”, allowing household appliances to communicate with the internet, mobile phones and each other, for example.

This February, pureLiFi co-founder Prof. Harald Haas launched the Edinburgh firm’s newest product, LiFi-X, at the Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona. The LiFi-X consists of an access point that connects to any LED light, as well as a business-card-size dongle that can be operated from a mobile device.

According to Harald Burchardt, pureLiFi’s chief operating officer, the dongle represents a significant milestone in LiFi’s journey towards becoming part of the mainstream. “The LiFi-X is a key step in the future of wireless communications,” he says. “The product shows the tremendous progress pureLiFi has made over the last 12 months to create a fully USB 2.0 powered dongle that is smaller than a credit card and can be used with tablets. Looking forward, the LiFi-X will provide a state-of- the-art basis for future LiFi products with our partners.”

Haas, meanwhile, believes LiFi is on the cusp of something big. “It’s exciting that so many of the tech giants are now engaging directly with LiFi through pureLiFi technologies,” he says. “The miniaturisation and world’s first integration of high-performance LiFi in a dongle is ground-breaking progress towards a LiFi connected world. We have witnessed rumours that Apple is investigating ‘LiFi-Capabilities’ in their latest iOS 9.0. I am excited that we have exceeded our technical roadmap, and with LiFi-X we can develop large-scale pilots. We now have a rail-track technology for the lighting industry to develop exciting and new business models around light as a service (LaaS).”

EIE

A key step in pureLiFi’s journey was its involvement in the Engage Invest Exploit (EIE) investor showcase event in Edinburgh, which sees start-ups pitch their businesses to investors. The event, organised by Informatics Ventures, offers burgeoning Scottish businesses a great platform to network with industry leaders, experts and potential investors – and companies such as pureLiFi have reaped the benefits of EIE.

PureLifi’s chief technology officer and co-founder, Mostafa Afgani, says: “EIE is a fantastic event to bring attention to the growing number of entrepreneurs in Scotland, showing some great innovation and driving forward the essential merger between vision, execution and funding.”

Thanks to initiatives such as EIE, combined with the hard work and innovative thinking behind pureLiFi, LED-based communications technology could soon see the light of day.

– This article was produced in partnership with Informatics Ventures and investor technology showcase EIE17

You can register your interest in EIE17 on their website.