By Kristy Dorsey

Edinburgh tech company pureLiFi has secured a multi-million military deal that it says is the world’s first large-scale deployment of ultrafast wireless technology that uses light rather than radio frequencies to transmit data.

An initial $4.2 million (£3m) order will see thousands of the Scottish firm’s Kitefin units delivered to the United States Army Europe and Africa (USAREUR-AF) to be used in tactical and strategic environments. This will enable wireless communications with superior security compared to conventional technologies such as cellular, WiFi and Bluetooth.

It is pureLiFi’s biggest order to date, and chief executive Alistair Banham said further follow-on orders are expected. He described at as a “transition” point for the company, as many of today’s common consumer technologies were adopted and evaluated in the first instance by the defence sector.

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“If one of the most significant and advanced defence organisations in the world can rely on LiFi for the most critical of communications, LiFi can offer unprecedented benefits to the consumer,” he said. “LiFi, like so many technologies before it, is on a classic journey of adoption in defence to wide-spread acceptance in the consumer market and eventually LiFi in everyone’s home.”

One of the main challenges of using radio frequencies (RF) in secure settings is that they can be detected and targeted. Kitefin is said to eliminate this risk because it can’t be detected outside its defined cone of coverage.

Andrew Foreman, chief technology officer at USAREUR-AF, said the detection of RF systems puts soldiers and systems in “dire straits”.

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“Including optical wireless in the commander’s toolbox is imperative to the survival of communications, command and control systems and, more importantly, soldiers,” he said. “Leadership within the Department of Defense are at a major transitional crossroads for communications and mission command systems and must make a critical decision.”

The deal comes on the back of an $18m (£13m) fundraising in November 2019, with funds provided by Singapore investment company Temasek and the Scottish Investment Bank. Since then, pureLiFi has been working with companies across a variety of industries to integrate its technology into mobile and other devices.

Mr Banham added: “Since offering our gigabyte components to the market we have developed some very innovative proof of concept integrations with some of the world’s largest consumer electronic and mobile phone brands. We are closer than ever to seeing consumers have LiFi in their homes and their pockets.”

Set up in 2012 as a spin-out from the University of Edinburgh, pureLiFi employs 40 people. In addition to superior security, the technology can offer faster speeds and more reliable connections.