Wi-Fi via light? Wi-Not!

I am excited to share breaking news via a “live” trend alert from product development duties in China! The media rooms at the China Fairs (Hong Kong and Guangzhou) are buzzing with insight about the latest and greatest product innovations, which eventually will find their way into hospitality.

As a previous trend analysis guest ambassador for the U.S. market, I received an invite to attend a media luncheon where buyers, designers and developers from the likes of Target, Wal-Mart, Container Store, QVC and Pottery Barn — to name just a few — are briefed on potential game changers. While enjoying the fascinating company of these incredibly forward-thinking individuals (most are already working on 2015-16 projects), one particular announcement generated such a level of “I want it now” enthusiasm, if it was possible, I would announce this week’s trend with a drum roll! 

Imagine this: accessing your Internet connection by flicking a light switch! Yes, this figment of one’s imagination may not be too far off, as researchers from Fudan University in Shanghai shared their creation of an LED light bulb that produces its own Wi-Fi signal. Dubbed “Li-Fi,” scientists have pulled off getting four computers online under a single-watt LED light bulb, which eventually would be a more cost-effective alternative to Wi-Fi. With the help of a microchip, the Li-Fi bulb not only connects up to four computers to the Internet simultaneously, but at a speed of about 150 megabytes per second! (In comparison, most home computers have a connection speed of about 20 mbps.)

The Li-Fi bulb basically uses light frequencies instead of radio waves, so it’s a less costly and much more eco-friendly way of accessing the Web since it uses only 5% of the energy used by most Wi-Fi devices.

Although there are kinks to work out (including design tweaks and the challenge of what happens when the light is blocked), researchers are proceeding with samples for 10 lucky buyers at the International Industry Fair in Shanghai next month.

Although I am not recommending you throw your router out just yet, I must admit after several flights lacking a connection opportunity over the past month, the timing of this breakthrough couldn’t be better. And with many in hospitality working under a “time lost is money lost” philosophy, I look forward to hearing if Li-Fi will be a ray of light in making your future brighter!