Malaysian milestones in terms of connectivity: Li-Fi

(Pic caption: Datuk Zainal Amanshah and Alok Ghose on stage to officially launch Interact)

It’s been a milestone kind of month for connectivity in Malaysia.

Signify, formerly Philips Lighting, had announced Interact, its new Internet of Things (IoT) platform powered by Li-Fi, and at nearly the same time, Xperanti announced a nationwide connectivity infrastructure powered by SigFox technology.

Not long before this, Tenaga Nasional (TNB) had announced they are exploring the technical and commercial viability of offering broadband services.

An anonymous source also cautioned that what’s reported in media about this at the moment, is slightly misunderstood – TNB isn’t going to the end users, but the telcos that leverage TNB’s fibre-based access infrastructure will be at the front retail and selling broadband to Malaysians who need good quality, and economically priced high-speed broadband service.

But back to Signify.

Its ASEAN CEO, Alok Ghose referred to Malaysia’s recent Industry 4.0 national policy launch and said, “Signify is ready to assist Malaysian customers in embracing the future of higher production efficiency, stronger digital talent pools, and greater cost savings through Interact IoT platform.”

According to Wikipedia, Li-Fi stands for ‘light-fidelity.’ Wireless Internet or Wi-Fi that we have all come to know and use in almost all aspect of our lives on the other hand, isn’t ‘wireless fidelity’. According to Webopedia, Wi-Fi is simply a trademarked phrase that means IEEE 802.11x.

And Li-Fi which uses similar 802.11 protocols, is a technology for wireless communication between devices using light to transmit the data.

But why use light waves at all?

Ed Huibers, Signify’s Global Business Head for Li-Fi Systems points out that radio waves are full, whereas lighting is there and will always be there. “In an office like Signify’s, every square metre has a lighting fixture.”

Why not utilise that?

Quick to add that Li-Fi is not competing with Wi-Fi but just offering an additional lane to the Internet, Huibers shared that a Li-Fi enabled light fixture from Signify, or Luminaire, can deliver 30Mbps, and serve up to 15 users.

Signify’s biggest deployment at the moment is at a French university, with about 30 units of Luminaires across a few classrooms.

Li-Fi is in 20 countries now, and more than half are Signify’s customers.

“We are learning as we go along, and helping to shape local regulations at the same time. As rollouts become bigger, that will spell bigger challenges,” Huibers said.

During the launch of the Interact IoT platform, the company had showcased live demonstrations of Interact-connected lighting in industrial, retail, city and commercial environments.

The Interact IoT platform comes with software for customers to easily manage and remotely control devices, security, authentication and authorisation. It also leverages open API standards to allow interoperability with Li-Fi enabled products like LED lights and sensors.

The Interact IoT platform allows local businesses and cities to identify and maximise efficiency through smart, connected lighting. It is cloud-based, highly scalable and comes with data management and processing capabilities.