While strolling the aisles of the Carrefour supermarket in Lille, France, supermarket shoppers may be unaware that they are able to participate in a technological revolution known as LiFi. The supermarket has installed an LED lighting system that beams promotional specials and location information directly to in-store consumers via their smartphones through VLC technology. Invisible to the human eye, the LEDs transmit a digital code via light waves and provide merchants with a viable, more accurate option than the Bluetooth-based beacons.
The intent of the LiFi system is to assist and track consumers as they move throughout the retail establishment. The LED lighting system has the capacity to broadcast up to 10 gigabits per second. Carrefour executive Celine Martin asserts that the new technology will provide consumers with a more pleasant shopping experience, allowing them to find the promotions and products they desire, in a more efficient and effective manner. For instance, you would no longer need to search up and down for that particular brand of soda that grandma likes—now you can simply ask your phone which aisle to find it in.
The technology, developed by Philips, is a non-invasive and cost effective application. The LED system requires only 50% of the electricity that is used by traditional lighting systems. Each of the specially designed LiFi lamps broadcasts a unique, distinct code throughout the store. Consumers are informed of the LED system and are able to open an “app,” on their smartphone, then point their smartphone upward towards the overhead LED lighting. The LiFi system is then able to get a fix on their location, within an accuracy of three feet and can determine the direction the consumer is facing.
Better Than Beacons
The LiFi LED lighting system is similar in nature to GPS-based maps and is comparable to WiFi based location systems, though location data through LiFi has proven to be more accurate than WiFi. Most retailers have been employing Bluetooth beacons as a less expensive option to investigate and engage a trial run of similar type systems, rather than invest in full the cost and labor required to replace an existing in-store lighting system. However, replacing the lighting system with LED would still provide the same long term ROI due to their increased efficiency. Additionally, the beacons require users’ phones to have Bluetooth capabilities turned on and be compatible with the latest Bluetooth standard.
Davies Murphy Group technology analyst, Chris Green believes that merchants should consider the LiFi LED lighting system as a long-term investment, which provides them more beneficial options as opposed to the beacon system. While they may be cheaper, to implement a Bluetooth beacon system with a similar level of accuracy would require a multitude of beacons strategically situated throughout the establishment and support current Bluetooth technology.
Still not convinced the use of VLC is the coolest thing since sliced bread? Do you think it would make your shopping experience more convenient? Worried about invasions of privacy? Watch the video and tell us what you think!