pureLiFi Receives US$18 Millon Series B Funding; Alignment of Stakeholders Imminent

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4Q 2019 | IN-5667

Light-Fidelity (LiFi) technology leader pureLifi recently announced its completion of an US$18 million Series B fundraiser. The funding round includes notable investors Temasek Holdings and the Scottish Investment Bank. This raised capital will be used in pureLifi’s development of Gigabit LiFi components into form factors to be integrated to mass-market mobile devices and lighting equipment.

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Coming to LiFi


Light-Fidelity (LiFi) technology leader pureLifi recently announced its completion of an US$18 million Series B fundraiser. The funding round includes notable investors Temasek Holdings and the Scottish Investment Bank. This raised capital will be used in pureLifi’s development of Gigabit LiFi components into form factors to be integrated to mass-market mobile devices and lighting equipment.

This fundraiser is part of the company’s strategic shift from LiFi systems to LiFi technology component manufacturing and distribution. In lieu of this, pureLifi has been in discussions with device manufacturers (of which Getac, a prominent manufacturer of ruggedized tablets and PCs, is a part) to embed LiFi-enabling components within their respective products. pureLifi has also worked with a diverse group of companies across different sectors that might stand to benefit from their innovative technology. These companies include telecommunications services provider O2 Telefonica and lighting companies Zumbotel and Wipro.

Untapped Reservoir


Temasek Holdings’ funding of pureLifi is aligned with its investment strategies in 2019. The Singaporean sovereign wealth firm has placed a focus on emerging businesses with sustainable innovations for this year. Despite its gradual moderation on its investments in the Telecommunications, Media and Technology (TMT) sector (reducing its portfolio exposure in those sectors from 24% to 20% over the last four years), Temasek Holdings has been making an exception for Edinburgh-based pureLifi. Aside from this recent capital investment, Temasek was also involved in pureLifi’s previous financing round of over US$10 million. The maintained bullishness of one of the largest, most forward-looking global investment firms is indicative of pureLifi’s promising value proposition and growth potential.

The underlying technology that forms the bedrock of pureLifi’s connectivity solution is the bidirectional high speed Visual Light Communication (VLC) networking technology. VLC enables the transmission of information through modulation of visible light spectrum (380 to 470nm)— the same visible light that is used for illumination. A Light-Emitting Diode (LED) unit would be fed with binary information through signal processing technology. The LED would then embed and communicate this processed data through its light beam to a receiver (photo-detector or photodiode). The high-speed transmission of this binary data from the LED to the photodiode is done through rapid intermittent blinking of the LED light that is imperceptible to the human eye (with LED flicker rates of about 1 million times per second).

The allure of VLC technology is that the utilization of optimal LED materials and connectivity-enhancing models can deliver speeds that would theoretically surpass Wi-Fi. Phosphor-coated white LEDs can deliver theoretical peak speeds of up to about 100 megabits per second (mbps) and the costlier iterations of Red, Green, Blue (RGB) LEDs can transmit up to 5 gigabits per second (Gbps).

President Obama once famously declared in a 2010 memorandum that “America’s future competitiveness and global technology leadership depend, in part, upon the availability of additional spectrum.” The main benefit that LiFi offers is how it addresses the inevitable issue of radiofrequency spectrum crunch in the mid- to long-term future. The expansive adoption of mobile cellular technologies, Internet-of-Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication is driving the wave of exponential increase of wireless data transmissions. The untapped reservoir of the infrared and visible light spectrum can be leveraged to cope with the increasingly sharp incline in data traffic. The figure below, extracted from a report written by pureLiFi’s Chief Science Officer, Harald Haas, sheds light on the capacity advantage (about 2600x) of infrared and visible light (labelled IR and Visible) compared to the entire radio frequency spectrum.

  Bandwidth Caomparison od Radio Frequency Spectrum  

An apparent feature of LiFi is that devices need to be positioned in proximity to a lighting fixture for them to stay to connected. This feature diminishes the coverage areas of connectivity compared to Wi-Fi (in which signals are not bound by walls). The security aspect of LiFi, however, is superior due to this inherent limitation of Line-of-Sight (LOS) communications between transmitter and receiver. It is this enhanced element of security (that can overcome the vulnerabilities of Wi-Fi networks) which can drive LiFi use cases in military bases and other mission-critical operations such as hospitals and secure factories.

Addressing the Ecosystem


Universal adoption and application of new wireless networking technologies would require alignments of the various stakeholders (i.e., device manufacturers, lighting companies, network equipment vendors, etc.). LiFi faces similar obstacles when compared to the adoption of new Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ax or Wi-Fi 6. For end users to enjoy the enhancements that come along with Wi-Fi 6, their devices must have corresponding infrastructure updates that would support the 802.11ax standard.

This is, however, where the similarities between LiFi and 802.11ax stop. When it comes to the introduction of new Wi-Fi standards, hardware manufacturers and chipset vendors have generally enjoyed frictionless backward compatibility. New Wi-Fi routers that support 802.11ax would, at minimum, have seamless compatibility with previous older standards 802.11ac (or older) devices. This means that, despite not being able to experience the increased speeds that Wi-Fi 6 brings, end users’ current devices would still be supported by new Wi-Fi 6 routers and would not require hardware/software upgrades to establish connectivity. As a new wireless technology in its nascent stages, LiFi does not have a fully developed environment of hardware-universality and institutional backing (i.e., the IEEE committee being responsible for generational interoperability) that Wi-Fi has.

The onus is on LiFi companies to be catalysts in shaping the ecosystem for the proliferation of LiFi and promoting widespread use case applications. pureLifi, along with industry leaders in light and communication technology companies (a group that includes Nokia, LEDVANCE, and Liberty Global), has formed the Light Communications Alliance (LCA). The organization was initiated with the goal of maturing the use cases and deployments of LiFi technology and entrenching industry standards for ease of interoperability and integration among key stakeholders such as chipset providers, infrastructure, light communication vendors, and telecom integrators.

The lighting equipment industry is uniquely positioned to further evolve this LiFi ecosystem given that the adoption of LiFi is directly dependent on the adoption of LED lighting. It would be strategically advantageous for LiFi companies to engage with LED manufacturers (and vice versa) to capitalize the convergence of both of their comparative advantages. LED manufacturers can diversify their product/service portfolio through Power over Ethernet (PoE). PoE enables both data and power to be transmitted over the same cable, meaning that LED manufacturers can effectively change their business models by providing not just light but also connectivity to their customers. A good example of this business evolution is how Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), a notable leader in LED lighting solutions, has made a transition to providing both illumination and data connectivity (powered by PoE) to their LED products. LumEfficient has also gone through this similar foray into LiFi by incorporating LiFi technology into its legacy LED products (earning an Innovation Award in LIGHTFAIR 2018).



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