Recently discovered code in iOS suggests that Apple may be exploring the feasibility of incorporating Li-Fi functionality into future iPhone models. Li-Fi, in case you’re unfamiliar, is a technology capable of transmitting data via light. What makes Li-Fi so compelling is that it’s effectively Wi-Fi on steroids and can transmit data more than 100 times faster than a standard Wi-Fi connection.
In lab conditions, researchers this past February were able to achieve Li-Fi speeds of 224 gigabits per second, fast enough to download multiple HD movies in less than two seconds.
While Li-Fi still remains something of an experimental technology, iOS 9’s references to the blazing fast data transfer technology are certainly intriguing. The iOS 9 code below was originally discovered by iOS jailbreaker Chase Fromm and relayed by AppleInsider earlier today.
Li-Fi works in a way not entirely unlike a traditional infrared remote control. Data is transmitted by rapidly modulating a light source, and received with a light sensor before being reassembled into an electronic signal.
Unlike your television remote, Li-Fi uses visible light and the modulation happens in a manner imperceptible to the human eye: that means the same bulb that lights your hallway can act as a data access point.
Is this likely to be a feature with the iPhone 7? Not a chance. As it stands today, Li-Fi, despite its promises of speed, is still plagued with a number of limitations. At a base level, it can’t work through walls because, well, visible light can’t travel through walls. In this respect, Wi-Fi has a huge practical advantage. Not only that, but a Li-Fi enabled device needs to have a direct line of sight to an operational light sensor to operate. This operational limitation, however, does make Li-Fi a more secure transfer protocol than Wi-Fi. Today, Li-Fi is far from being a true Wi-Fi replacement, but it’s not out of the realm of comprehension that Li-Fi, in the future, may dutifully serve as a Wi-Fi supplement.
More broadly, the Li-Fi references in iOS 9 certainly affirm that Apple remains dedicated to exploring next-gen technologies for future use. Of course, the fact that Apple is already looking into Li-Fi shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. If we go back in time a bit, you might remember that Apple, with the original iBook in 1999, was the first company to ever release a laptop with built-in Wi-Fi.
For more information about Li-Fi, University of Edinburgh Professor Harald Hass in 2011 gave a TED talk on the technology he invented.
“All we need to do is fit a small microchip to every potential illumination device and this would then combine two basic functionalities, illumination and wireless data transmission,” Haas explained. “In the future we will not only have 14 billion light bulbs, we may have 14 billion Li-Fis deployed worldwide for a cleaner, greener and even brighter future.”
Hass’ full talk can be viewed below.