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LED Bulbs to Power Internet: An Indian Tech Startup Brings Li-Fi Technology to Life

LED Bulbs to Power Internet: An Indian Tech Startup Brings Li-Fi Technology to Life

Pradeep runs a small town store and often needs to buy products online for his shop. Poor internet connectivity was affecting his business for long. Then one day he decided to switch to LED lighting for his shop and home. Since then his business has improved significantly. Pradeep now enjoys easy uninterrupted connectivity without worrying about dithering Wi-Fi connection. Sounds too good to be true? With Li-Fi technology such a wonder can happen anytime soon.

Here I present the successful startup story of Velmenni Research and Development Pvt. Ltd. which is working on Light-Fidelity or Li-Fi technology to enable high-speed data transmission with a simple LED bulb.

 

Before narrating this inspiring startup story, let’s explain what exactly Light-Fidelity (Li-Fi) is. It is a unique technology that uses light waves for data transmission as compared to Wi-Fi which uses electromagnetic waves for the purpose. Li-Fi is believed to be 100 times efficient and much safer than the conventional Wi-Fi technology.

Li-Fi technology

There are very few organizations around the world, working with optical wireless data transmission technology and even fewer in India, Velmenni Research and Development Pvt. Ltd. is one of them. Founded by Deepak Solanki, Velmenni is one of the top 5 organizations worldwide doing commendable work in this field. From a humble beginning, this tech startup has written its own successful startup story with courage and determination.

Let’s delve deeper into the story. And yes, don’t miss the video at the end!

The Beginning of this Successful Startup Story Was Not so Rosy!

Deepak Solanki with his engineering background dreamt of starting something in the research space. He was only 22 when he ventured into Robotics at the research labs in IIT Bombay and IIT Hyderabad. He registered a sole proprietorship business and it was during that time he came across the Li-Fi Technology. He teamed up with his friend, Saurabh Garg to build a working prototype that successfully transmitted data through light. By the summer of 2013, their prototype was ready.

The duo was quite confident of finding investors to sponsor this groundbreaking technology but they were disappointed. Initially, they approached a lighting company since the technology is LED oriented. Investors and enterprises, however, rejected the proposal, citing reasons like ‘the technology is ahead of time’ or ‘your prototype looks more like a science project!” Some even suggested them to start an online business. Such words, however, failed to dampen their spirits as Solanki took up consulting jobs to keep his dream project alive.

Fundraising Opportunity Came Through an Accelerator Program

The next year, i.e., 2014, Solanki got an opportunity to join the 3-month program of Buildit,  an IoT and hardware accelerator in Estonia. There they met the European tech community and pitched their startup idea to interested individuals. They even managed a real-time integration of their prototype.

Finally, they sealed a deal with an Estonian entrepreneur who wanted the Li-Fi technology to be integrated into their LED lighting system. Solanki aptly used this opportunity to showcase real-life application of their Li-Fi lab model. After completing the project, Solanki decided to return to India to set up the R&D team in New Delhi. By early 2016, they raised a second round of funding which was supported by few European investors. Also, they got hold of a few new clients.

A Journey to Success With Airbus

The next turning point came when Solanki participated in the Nordic tech conference. Being one of the largest tech conferences, top tech companies from around the world come here to look for investment opportunities. Velmenni reached the final round but failed to win. Yet they managed to create enough buzz and was noticed by Airbus, a name to reckon with in the civil and military aerospace.

Solanki and his team were invited to take part in a 6-month corporate accelerator program conducted by Airbus in Germany. Joining the program proved to be a significant turning point for them as they got the opportunity to introduce their Li-Fi model to the aviation industry and that too through one of the biggest organizations in the aeronautics space. For demo purpose, they created a wireless in-flight entertainment system applying the Li-Fi technique. They tested the model on an A-350 replica.

Velmenni Establishes a Firm Footing With Airbus Validation

With support from Airbus, Velmenni establishes itself as a pioneer in the Visible Light Communication space. At present, Velmenni is working with Airbus to implement their high-speed wireless data transmission technology inside the aircraft. The project is right now at its testing phase.

Airbus is so optimistic about the technology that they have actually developed a Li-Fi community within the organization. The community is encouraging different stakeholders to suggest the final product that the aviation sector can use.




How Velmenni Makes the Li-Fi Technology work?

They have come up with two different devices to cater to the indoor and outdoor needs. A Li-Fi access point and a dongle are required for indoor use (inside a building, office or home). The Li-Fi access point, which is actually a router, converts light from a LED source into an internet hotspot. The router is plugged in between the light and the LED driver. The system also requires a Li-Fi USB dongle connected to smart devices to enable data access. The entire infrastructure is supported by the optical cable.

For outdoor use, Velmenni has developed a different type of outdoor light-based communication system which can be easily implemented without optical cables. This is particularly significant for small towns and villages in India that suffer from poor connectivity due to lack of proper cable infrastructure. Here are a few facts that confirm the rural connectivity problem.

Let’s take a look at few basic facts about Li-Fi technology and how it works:

The Present Status

After a soft launch of their product at Apex 2017, several multinational companies have expressed interest to collaborate and implement the system inside real aircraft. Several Indian companies belonging to lighting and IT infrastructure segments have approached Velmenni with specific queries related to the technology launch in the Indian market.

Conclusion

Li-Fi technology can play a significant role in a country like India which lacks the basic infrastructure to support Wi-Fi. Velmenni, with its technical expertise, financial stability and solid support from mentors like Airbus, is quite confident of overcoming challenges and redefine the future of wireless technology through fruitful partnership! This is one successful startup story that will surely encourage enterprising entrepreneurs to pursue their dream with eternal optimism.

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Thanks for reading ….

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Dale Carnegie
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