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Cable-free for a faster transfer

The world is an ever shrinking place thanks to new and emerging technologies. Mobile and smart phones allow us to talk to anyone around the world, and send e-mails and photos almost instantaneously. But as our abilities to accomplish things increase, so do our demands; as a re...

The world is an ever shrinking place thanks to new and emerging technologies. Mobile and smart phones allow us to talk to anyone around the world, and send e-mails and photos almost instantaneously. But as our abilities to accomplish things increase, so do our demands; as a result, some of these new technologies are already creaking under the strain. One of the bottlenecks is in the area of data transfer. This can be done through physical wired connections, increasing clutter, or wirelessly through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. The latter are acceptable for small files, but what about that graduation or wedding ceremony you just filmed? The transferral process could be very lengthy. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (Fraunhofer IPMS) in Dresden, Germany have developed a new system using infrared technology that not only surpasses current wireless technologies but also most common wired ones as well. Frank Deicke, one of the researchers who developed the new technology and a specialist in infrared technology, presented the newly developed infrared module, the like of which has never been seen before. 'It transfers data at a rate of 1 gigabit per second (Gbit/s). To put this into context, one e-mail character has a size of eight bits. The infrared module is able to transfer 125 million characters per second,' explains Deicke. Cable connections between electronic devices are generally faster than wireless ones - this infrared module, however, turns the tables. The new 'multi-gigabit communication module' as it is known, is six times faster than a USB 2.0 cable, currently the most common data transfer cable in use. Most computers have USB 2.0 ports and most flash drives follow this protocol. When compared to conventional wireless transfers, the infrared module leaves its competitors in the dust. It is 46 times faster than Wi-Fi and 1,430 times faster than a Bluetooth connection. The increased transfer rate is due to high-speed signal processing. In data transfer, the bottleneck occurs during the encoding and decoding of the data. As an example, before being sent, video information from your digital camera first has to be converted into a radio signal. The receiving device, a laptop or desktop computer, then decodes the radio signal and converts it back into film data. All this costs processing time. The challenge for the researcher and his team was to build a small infrared module with fast-working hardware and software. In addition, the processing time required should be minimal, because the harder the microprocessors have to work, the more electricity they use. 'We achieved this ultimately through a clever combination of different technical solutions,' says Deicke. One of these solutions is the transceiver, an optical component able to send and receive light signals simultaneously. The transceiver is only about the size of a child's fingernail, but manages to fit in a laser diode to send light pulses and a photo detector to detect them. The decoders that receive and translate the encoded data are also crucial. Deicke and his colleagues had to program ingenious error-correction mechanisms, because the light signals become weakened and distorted in the air. Just like controlling a TV with its remote, there has to be a clear line of sight between sender and receiver. This is no problem for Frank Deicke: 'You simply place the camera or the smartphone next to the computer or laptop.' The video can then be transferred in just a few seconds. The researchers are aware that manufacturers have to accept the technology as standard before it can become more widespread. Only then will it find its way into a wide variety of devices, enabling consumers to connect almost any laptop to any camera without problems. This is why Deicke is active in the Infrared Data Association, where among other things he contributes to the '10 Giga-IR working group'. This makes his goal for the future obvious: to improve on 1 Gbit/s. 'Our current infrared module has already demonstrated that infrared technology is able to go far beyond established standards. We plan to improve performance even more in the future.' Deicke has already been able to show that the transfer rate of his current model can be raised to 3 Gbit/s. 10 Gbit/s cannot be very far off.For more information, please visit: Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (Fraunhofer IPMS):http://www.ipms.fraunhofer.de/en.html Infrared Data Association:http://www.irda.org/

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