Edinburgh tech firm behind light-based wi-fi hails US Army deal: smart cars and smartphones on horizon

PureLiFi, the Edinburgh-based firm behind technology that uses light to transmit data, has been awarded a breakthrough, multi-million-dollar deal with the US Army in Europe.

The agreement will see the capital firm supply the army with Kitefin, described as a “next generation optical wireless communication system”, which uses LEDs (light-emitting diodes) for secure data transmission instead of radio waves like wi-fi.

By harnessing the light spectrum, “LiFi” is said to provide more reliable wireless communications with “unparalleled security”, compared to conventional technologies such as cellular, wi-fi and Bluetooth. The deal with the US Army is the world’s first large scale deployment of LiFi.

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An initial pilot of PureLiFi’s technology with the US Army Europe and Africa took place in 2019, convincing key military stakeholders that the technology would play a key role in the future of defence communications.

The agreement will see PureLiFi supply the army with Kitefin, described as a 'next generation optical wireless communication system', which uses light for secure data transmission instead of radio waves like wi-fi.
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Alistair Banham, the company’s chief executive, said: “This largest real-world deployment of LiFi with the US Army Europe and Africa is a testament to the benefits that LiFi can offer and the technology’s usability.

“If one of the most significant and advanced defence organisations in the world can rely on LiFi for the most critical of communications, LiFi can offer unprecedented benefits to the consumer.

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“LiFi, like so many technologies before it, is on a classic journey of adoption in defense to wide-spread acceptance in the consumer market and eventually LiFi in everyone’s home.”

He added: “Since offering our gigabit components to the market we have developed some very innovative proof of concept integrations with some of the world’s largest consumer electronic and mobile phone brands. We are closer than ever to seeing consumers having LiFi in their homes and their pockets.

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“This first major deployment with the US Army Europe and Africa is just the beginning”

Andrew Foreman, chief technology officer at the US Army Europe and Africa, said: “Including optical wireless in the commander’s toolbox is imperative to the survival of communications, command and control systems and, more importantly, soldiers. Leadership within the Department of Defense are at a major transitional crossroads for communications and mission command systems and must make a critical decision.”

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The deal comes on the back of PureLiFi’s £18 million series B investment to take the technology mainstream. In 2019, the firm launched gigabit components designed for integration into mobile phones and consumer electronics.

New technology that eventually ends up in the hands of consumers is often evaluated adopted and used first by the defence sector which traditionally leads the way with new and proven secure technology innovation.

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The tech firm will be shipping the first units of Kitefin this spring, offering “unprecedented security” to defence and “setting the scene for connecting everything and everyone with LiFi”.

PureLiFi was founded by the “Father of LiFi” Harald Haas, and Mostafa Afgani, in 2012. The firm pointed out that its commercial light antennas – the optoelectronic components which make LiFi possible – could be used in all kinds of devices, from industrial to consumer, and from smart cars to smartphones.

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