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“You like my new stereo radio son?”

 

“It’s cool…I mean yessir. But what’s this?”

 

“Well come on, let’s turn it on and I’ll show you.”

 

There was so much stuff in the room that its acoustics were perfect for such a trial. It would prove the perfect space for my first taste of Hi-Fi (high fidelity) sound. The room was instantly filled with symphonic instruments seemingly coming from all around me.

 

What’s the point of all this?

 

Well, first I reckon, is that the abbreviated handle Hi-Fi, would be the first of many such techno-designates that would impact my life. Next would be Sci-Fi – something I discovered around the same time and still remains my favorite fictional genre for books and movies. Then there’s Wi-Fi of course, the ubiquitous umbilical that grants heavenly access to, well, everything we can’t otherwise see or touch. And lastly is (wait for it), Li-Fi, the slow to get at, but well worth waiting on subject of this updated article.

 

Each of the “-Fi” variants (Sci-Fi excepted), have represented significant technological advancements. One year ago in our November, ‘22 issue, we ran an article on Spectrum Networks, a Seattle based relatively new start-up with a technology as crazy advanced and game changing as the internet was on April 30th, 1993.

At Speeds You Can't Imagine. 
An Update On Spectrum Networks
When I was a kid, I remember going to my granddad’s place every other Sunday evening. He had a great place but my favorite room to wander into was his personal ‘den’ (a.k.a. mancave). The room had dark wood paneled walls, guns of every description, game trophies on the walls, framed pictures with hunting and fishing bros from far away continents – and of course a giant oversized heavy wood desk at the back of the room, littered with yet more manly paraphernalia. I walked slowly around the room touching everything of course until finally landing at the equally massive credenza behind his desk. There I spotted something I hadn’t seen on prior visits, a new addition. It was a fancy radio console with the name Magnavox spelled across one of its four speaker grills. And below that was a word I’d never seen. It read Hi-Fi. As I stooped down to study it, my Granddad cleared his throat. He was leaned against the doorway across the room – a grin on his face, a drink in his hand and a pipe in his mouth.

Very few had even heard the term Li-Fi only a year ago but I’m betting by now, especially for those directly involved in aviation interiors – you have by now. In short, it’s a technological leap in data transmission that, in real terms, is almost unimaginable. It will alter the speed and security of data transmission in aircraft cabins to the point where current HF signals and traditional routers will soon feel like the stone age when we look back.

 

Today, I’m going to recap some of my article from a year ago and at the end, drop a little bit of news that will quantify how far the technology has come in just twelve months and some of the early adopters that are leading the way toward its commercial success and practical viability for VIP and airline applications.

 

Below are some excerpts from my article a year ago. My interview was with Mr. Jay McGrath (Spectrum’s Founder & CEO) and Mr. Alex King (Chief Technical Officer).

 

“Ok, Let’s say for a minute I’ve just ordered a new BBJ and this is something that could potentially be installed on my airplane. What's it going to do for me and my family’s flight experience?

 

“Ok, so the main thing is the speed of Li-Fi.” Says Mr. McGrath “It’s literally leaps and bounds above current WiFi technology. LiFi truly and finally will enable the wireless cabin where Wi-Fi just hasn't been able to keep up for some years now. Current CMS / IFE systems are struggling to keep up with increasingly higher resolution devices and simultaneous users throughout the cabin.”

“We have customers that are saying, hey I'd like 4K uncompressed content going out to all of my displays with no latency. They want real time sources and Wi-Fi just can't support that - and so traditionally CMS/IFE providers use wired infrastructure, like fiber or copper to deliver the content to multiple devices around to the cabin. But now with the capabilities of Li-Fi we can support those things wirelessly to the point where that wired infrastructure can literally go away. So, if you were my customer, yea, this is what I would say. You will never again experience degraded signals or crashes when your children are in the aft cabin gaming and your guests are up front trying to watch movies on multiple screens in 5K and Dolby Atmos. Oh and by the way, all that weight associated with cabling, wiring etc – just went away also.”

 

“Well, that’s pretty amazing and extremely compelling from the customer’s standpoint,” I confessed. “not to mention the completion centers. As a customer, it sounds like a game changer to be sure. But what exactly is Li-Fi…how does it work?”

 

This is where Alex took off in the tradition of any good ‘techy’. But he was kind to do it in terms I could understand.

 

“Ok, so obviously LiFi is fundamentally the same as WiFi, except we’re using laser-light to carry the data vs. an RF signal. Light as a means of carrying data has been used for decades.  Fiber optic cables for example, have for several decades now, been used to transmit data at very high speeds. So, in aircraft interiors these days, almost all light sources are LED, right? Very efficient, no heat and very controllable in terms of light temperature etc. But while LED light is great for visible light – cabin illumination, aesthetics, mood etc., it didn’t really support the use case for transmitting data at super high speeds. LEDs can be modulated at 100MHz, which typically can only support speeds of perhaps a couple of hundred megabits per second. While Laser based light sources can be modulated at 10Ghz, which can support multi-Gbps speeds.”

 

Ok, hang on” I asked. “Just what kind of speeds are we talking about?

 

He smiled before answering.

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