Apple may be close to getting the jump on the competition once again, as an examination of iOS 9 has revealed entries relating to high speed Li-Fi connections. It looks like Cupertino has been testing light pulses to send data, although it is impossible to say how far along its technology has come.
The source code entry was discovered by a Twitter user, and has since been confirmed independently by Apple Insider. It looks like the code has existed since iOS 9.1, and exists alongside several other software and hardware capability declarations.
Li-Fi communication is a relatively new technology that transmits data using light instead of radio waves. It has been in development for a couple of years now, and was officially tested for the first time two months ago by an Estonian company. Researchers measured data transfer speeds at 1 GB per second (that is not a typo), which is substantially faster than anything WiFi has to offer at the moment.
That being said, Apple may have been working on getting Li-Fi running for a lot longer than we have expected. The company has a patent from May 2014 specifying a controller for an image sensor that would be able to switch between capturing images and data. The patent talks about using a light source (like an LED) to transmit data; which is extremely similar to what researchers have been working with for Li-Fi.
Chances are that we will not be seeing Li-Fi appearing on the next iPhone; the technology isn’t far along enough for mass deployment. It might not even appear next year, considering that Li-Fi needs both transmitters and receivers to be useful. However, it could be that Apple will try to fill that gap itself; perhaps with a full eco-system of Li-Fi enabled devices.