So, data throughput rates in large rooms can easily be in the 10s or even 100s of Gbps.”
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“Laser based LiFi technology has almost no limits and has recently been demonstrated at CES to deliver 100 gigabits per second from a single source.”
“Seriously!? GIG’s?? That’s almost hard to believe.”
“Right? Well, it actually gets better.” he says. Our Laser Light partner is projecting that in the coming years, it will be able to demonstrate a terabyte per second at CES. And although it may take a while for those speeds to make their way into aircraft, the Gbps is achievable now. Our multi-Gbps solution is also scalable, and additive since each light is an access point. So, data throughput rates in large rooms can easily be in the 10s or even 100s of Gbps.”
“That’s just insane” I said. “I feel like I’m talking to my dad again about nuclear powered aircraft carriers! Ok so the laser light carries the data, but from what source? Is there some kind of router in a traditional sense?”
And this is where the conversation really got interesting!
“No,” he says. “It comes from the lights themselves”
“What lights?” I asked. “I guess I’m not getting it.”
“From the lights in the cabin” he says with a grin. “The downlights in the ceiling, lamps, ambient light. Literally any or all of these lights can be made to carry both the visible light we need in the cabin AND the data, simultaneously. Here let me show you” he says.
He held up a module - one of their demo testbed plugins for Gulfstream. He pointed it toward me and turned it on. It was a bright white light which he explained was a laser light fixture (not LED) and that it is controllable in all the same ways as LED, dimmable, programmable to any color temperature etc. But then he said, “Now I’m going to turn off the visible light and tell me what you see.”
When he did, the light indeed went out, but I could still see a slight purple hue from a diode in the center of the fixture.
“This” he said “is the data signal and the only reason you can see it is because we we’re communicating via cameras on Zoom. To the naked eye, it’s completely invisible. Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether or which cabin lights are on or off, the non-visible modulated signal is constantly transmitting data at super high speeds – and from literally dozens of sources throughout the cabin.”
It was a frankly a little bizarre to think about data transmitted in this way – but after eagerly devouring all I could read about the technology; I could easily get why LiFi was not only viable but on the cusp of changing IFE/CMS data distribution forever. But I still had a question.
“So, this all sounds truly amazing but what does this mean for existing aircraft and/or the way completion centers will now have to reconfigure their cabin lighting systems?”
This time Jay fielded the question – again sporting a slight grin.
“No actually, that’s the other good part” he explained. “None of the existing / current cabin light mounting provisions will change at all. The new LiFi fixtures are designed as drop-in replacements to the existing lights to minimize aircraft integration efforts and downtimes. This goes back to the thing about making sure MRO’s and completion centers are not completely reinventing their processes to accommodate a new technology. We’ve been careful to see that the transition is not only groundbreaking but painless for all involved parties.”
He continued by pointing out that because LiFi is distributed via light vs. an RF signal, there is also a built-in security component in that the data signal cannot go beyond the airframe. That is to say that unlike all the traditional WiFi networks we’re used to, Lifi will not create an RF signature beyond physical barriers. It terminates at solid structures, thereby securely confining all data within the cabin.
It's hard not to be impressed with a technology like this - one with the potential to literally catapult data transmission into the proverbial stratosphere. I’ve long known that we were approaching a point where new devices coming online were outpacing the required bandwidth and speeds necessary to efficiently drive them. But it was exciting to sit and listen to these guys explain this truly exciting next generation of data speed and their clever methodology for distributing it within the cabin.
This concludes the excerpted segment from the prior article in July of 2022. The rest of my interview / article from that issue is available via the link below.
Yet as I eluded at the start, both the technology and the commercial strides Spectrum Networks has made in that time are also quite remarkable.
Spectrum is currently working with Gulfstream, Bombardier, Boeing and other major OEMs, as well as major carriers, completion centers and others in a formal way now. In fact, in our current issue (the one you’re reading), you will find the article: Boeing Business Jet’s New Power Centers, centered of course around the big news first unveiled at this year’s NBAA/BACE in Las Vegas. In the article Boeing acknowledged they are in formal talks and practicality discussions with Spectrum in hopes the technology can soon be offered on via their new program BBJ Select.
JCF Magazine will continue to keep you up to date on Spectrum Technologies and the exciting promise of LiFi, light-based data transmission within aircraft cabins. In the meantime, learn more via the links below.
Access the JCFM’s full original article: July, 2022 Issue
ARS Technica Independent Article: arstechnica.com/gadgets/2023/07/light-based-lifi
Watch the Featured Video – also in this issue.