How LiFi can revolutionize retail


A few years ago the term LiFi made headlines claiming to be 100 times faster than WiFi. The tech got a lot of interest and then things quietened down. The fact is that what made headlines was not a product that would be on sale days after a magnificent keynote like in the case of Apple or Google but was a series of lab tests and research into the potential of the technology. Today we have very little patience for products that will hit the shelves a few years from now. We look for instant gratification and something that we can start using right away.

When the talk about LiFi started many were skeptical including myself. LiFi essentially uses normal indoor LED lights to transmit data to receiving devices. The LED flickers at a speed not detectable to the human eye and sensors are able to interpret this. That’s LiFi in a nutshell. The tech leaves us with one huge challenge. How do us use LiFi when your phone is in your pocket? How do existing smartphones utilize this technology? When I last investigate this tech, this is where I left off.

Recently at GITEX in Dubai, I happened to meet some folks from this rather interesting company called OLEDCOMM. They have a range of Li-Fi products but I would like to focus on just one of them. The product is called the GEOLiFi ® transmitter. This is an indoor positioning system that transforms your lighting system into a map that allows users to find specific products in a retail environment.

I feel that this product could be a revolution in the retail space with a few minor adjustments. In its current form it is merely a replacement for Bluetooth Beacons. GEOLiFi works by fitting a transmitting light into your lighting unit. When someone opens a particular app, the smartphone’s front camera senses the light and reads the ID number that is being transmitted. Based on the ID number your smartphone uses your 4G connection to pull the content related to that particular ID. The big problem solved here is enabling existing smartphone to access LiFi. While this is interesting, I feel that it can be made even better.

Here’s my suggestion. Instead of transmitting just the ID number of a location in the supermarket, transmit the actual content. A photo that is about 200kb would show up clearly on a smartphone. Add some text and you have content that is displayed on your device without your customers ever using their own Internet connections. Think about it, as a retailer, you really want the customer to see that content and now with LiFi you can transmit the information to them at 100 times the speed of traditional WiFi. What’s even better is that by using this system you could use local infrastructure at the retail store and deliver all the content locally without the speed bottlenecks of the public Internet. As the technology gets better, you would ensure less packet loss and start streaming videos instead of just text and images.

The way to implement this product would be to add relevant SDK’s into a retailer’s app or perhaps create a city wide app that ‘lights up’ with information across multiple retailers, malls and venues. What I love the most about all of this is the fact that you could deploy this solution TODAY!!!

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