Frank Deicke (via Fraunhofer IPMS/Jurgen Losel)
Don’t look now, but the infrared technology found in fancy turn-of-the-century cell phones is planning a comeback. That is if Frank Deicke, researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS) in Dresden, Germany, has his way. Those archaic devices used infrared to wirelessly transfer data over short distances. Later, this technology was made obsolete by much faster wi-fi and Bluetooth. But, Deicke has come up with an ingenious way that allows miniature hardware and innovative data processing to transfer data at a blazing speed of 1 Gbps.
The speed (1 Gbps) is not unheard of, but part of the innovation of this device is how small it is. In the size of “a child’s fingernail,” about 0.5 cm2, Deicke and his IPMS team have a transceiver that can emit signals using a laser diode while simultaneously receiving using a photodetector and processing them.
The team states that much of the inefficiencies in the speed of current wireless technology stems from the tasking process of encoding when sending and decoding when receiving data. Developing code that facilitates the encoding and decoding, focusing on video transmission, the team was able to minimize the load on the microprocessor while saving time and power consumption. The research team also developed error-correcting code that corrects errors that occur naturally while infrared wireless transmission travel through the air. Just like your television control, infrared signals must be unblocked between transmitter and receiver, but this project intends to be for data transfers between two nearby devices like a camera and a laptop.
The current infrared transceivers that the team has developed could already be scaled to give speeds of 3 Gbps. The speed of just 1 Gbps is already 46 times faster than Wi-Fi, 1,430 times faster than Bluetooth and 6 times faster than USB (wired) transfer rates.
To achieve the long-term goal of using these infrared transceivers in devices, Deicke is pushing to influence the Infrared Data Association (IDA) for more materials, research and adopt his method as the standard. Deicke also works at the IDA’s “10 Giga-IR working group” which clearly states the goal of this project. With more work, Deicke is confident this technology can reach the 10 Gbps rate and bring infrared wireless communications back to mobile devices.