Scottish school first in the world to pilot wireless network using light
Paul Wheelhouse visiting the LiFi trial at Kyle Academy, Ayr - Image credit: South Ayrshire Council
A secondary school in South Ayrshire is the first in the world to pilot high-speed wireless internet connectivity using light.
Kyle Academy in Ayr is testing the use of LiFi technology – which uses light to wirelessly connect to the internet – within the classroom.
By using light waves, LiFi offers much greater bandwidth, which significantly increases connectivity and allows access to high-bandwidth learning materials such as videos and e-books.
The LiFi network in the South Ayrshire school is being provided and tested by pureLiFi, a technology company using light to create next-generation wireless networks, in conjunction with the LiFi Research and Development Centre at The University of Edinburgh.
The project is being overseen by the Scottish Futures Trust.
The Scottish Government has also supported the pilot with a £16,000 grant through its Digital Schools initiative.
The pureLiFi LiFi-XC system in Kyle Academy consists of eight LiFi-enabled LED light bulbs in the ceiling.
Pupils are given access to LiFi-XC stations that plug into their laptops, enabling high-speed connectivity through the lights.
Wireless connectivity is in growing demand as schools seek to cater for more students by maximising the use of space with flexible work areas through the use of mobile devices, such as laptops, rather than a room of wired-internet PCs.
And with an increasing number of internet-connected devices in classrooms, installing LiFi alongside Wi-Fi could provide additional bandwidth to reduce network congestion, enabling students to stream educational videos and download resources seamlessly.
Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, visited the students taking part in the LiFi trial to see what their experiences were with this new technology.
He said the pilot represented "a potentially very valuable contribution to our knowledge and understanding of evolving 5G technologies".
South Ayrshire Council's portfolio holder for lifelong learning, Councillor William Grant, said: "It's been really exciting for Kyle Academy to be part of this pilot project to enhance wireless technology and feedback from young people, who have definitely seen an improvement in connectivity, has been positive.
"It's easy to see the potential the technology has, and the difference it could make in the future – not just in schools, but in business and in society – and I look forward to seeing how it moves forward."
LiFi technology was born out of 16 years of research in light communication by Professor Harald Haas of the University of Edinburgh and further developed by pureLiFi.
It is a high-speed, bidirectional, secure and fully networked wireless communication that uses light, rather than radio waves used in Wi-Fi, to transmit data.
Haas said: "LiFi was born in Scotland at a TED Global talk that I presented in 2011.
"Seven years later, I am absolutely thrilled to see true LiFi for the first time deployed in a school in Scotland.
"Connectivity has become a basic need to enable prosperity."
“This world's first pilot not only offers secure connectivity in a school, but hopefully inspires the next generation to join us in innovating for humanity and prosperity."
Alistair Banham, CEO of pureLiFi, said: "LiFi is a transformative technology that will enable the next generation of wireless communications.
"At Kyle Academy, LiFi has enhanced the classroom into a fully connected environment allowing students to have a world of educational tools at their fingertips through light.
"The students at Kyle Academy are taking part in the early adoption of technology that will someday be in every light and every device connecting everyone and everything.
"This is just the beginning for LiFi, on our journey toward unprecedented data and bandwidth."