In 2011 a UK Professor, Harald Haas, demonstrated how using a simple LED light and a photo receiver it is possible to transmit data without any radio or hard wired connection. Using subtle changes in the light intensity data is transmitted quickly and securely to a receiving device. This design has been designated LIFI.
A startup company based in Estonia is bringing the technology to market to enable it to support the wireless data needs in an office. Here's the founder showing how it works.
Some of the benefits of this technology can be the security by retaining the light source and receiver within one location without leakage to surrounding rooms as with WIFI. The transfer is faster and uses much less energy as well.
The inventor of the LIFI system presented a more detailed explanation of how it works at a recent TED talk and demonstrated how current LED infrastructure combined with available solar cells could potentially be used to become part of a LIFI system. One of the big benefits of this use is that there is less need for new installations and thus a lowering of the power requirements for supporting data transmission. The solar cell used as the capture station for the LIFI can continue to be used as a capture source for the energy it holds as well.
Here's Professor Haas showing how this all works and explaining how he sees it impacting the needs of our future wireless and internet environment.
One of the areas that is not covered by this discussion is how this technology can be made bidirectional since most WIFI use is not just a receive only environment. The manner in which software and connections are developed for the technology solving problem is discussed in its Wikipedia description .
There is no timeline available at this juncture outlining when you might be able to purchase LIFI capability for the common business office in North America but the development is ongoing and has potential to compliment or replace WIFI in our future.