Tech firm sees the light with £3m funding

Professor Harald Haas: coined phrase. Picture: Contributed
Professor Harald Haas: coined phrase. Picture: Contributed
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A TECHNOLOGY outfit that uses beams of light to transmit data is poised to raise up to £3 million of funding in the new year as it aims to grab a slice of a potential $6 billion (£3.7bn) market.

PureLiFi, which was spun out from Edinburgh University in 2012, has already secured about £1.5m from investors including business angel syndicate Par Equity and Scottish Enterprise.

The company is preparing to launch its first commercial product in the opening months of next year, after releasing “beta” or test versions to partner organisations this year.

Harald Haas, PureLiFi’s co-founder and chief science officer, is credited with coining the phrase “LiFi”.

While current wi-fi systems use radio waves to transmit internet data and other information, LiFi equipment uses beams of light.

Li-1st, the company’s maiden product, can transmit data through light-emitting diodes (LEDs), the tiny light-generating products that have been replacing traditional incandescent bulbs. Research by Markets & Markets has said that the total value of sales in the LiFi industry is expected to increase from $96m in 2012 to more than $6bn in 2018.

Initially, users of the technology are expected to include lighting companies, which could incorporate the communications technology into their products.

But Haas, who has worked with Nokia and Siemens and is professor of mobile communications at Edinburgh University, said the applications could be much wider.

“I’m talking to the oil and gas industry about using point-to-point light connections to monitor conditions inside wells,” he said. “At the moment, companies have to shut down their wells every six months to put in wire probes at a cost of about $200,000 a time.

“Retailers could also give shoppers coupons and special offers in each area of their stores.”

In October, PureLiFi named Russel Griggs as its chairman. Griggs – who advises the Scottish Government on business regulation and who is a former chairman of the CBI’s national small business council – replaced David Kirk, who has remained with the firm as an advisor.

Haas said that Griggs had helped to introduce PureLiFi to potential investors.

Edinburgh University aims to place Scotland at the vanguard of the expanding industry by last month launching a LiFi research and development centre, which aims to attract industrial partners.

Haas said: “The light on your toaster or your fridge could be turned into a point to access the internet.

“This could lead to the ‘internet of everything’, when most items are connected to the web.”