Competition for Cable Links à la USB

Dresden, / October 16, 2012

Fraunhofer IPMS will be presenting a communication module at Electronica 2012 that can transfer data wirelessly at a speed of up to 3 Gigabit per second. Cable solutions such as USB, Gigabit-Ethernet, HDMI or Thunderbolt could soon pale in comparison.

Wireless energy and high speed data transmission
Wireless energy and high speed data transmission.

Connections with cables and plugs are not only susceptible to faults, they are also annoying. Especially when it comes to data transfer with mobile devices such as digital cameras or smartphones. Wireless connections à la Bluetooth or WiFi have experienced a constant rise in popularity for such applications. However with the large data volume of, for example, high-resolution images or videos, this type of connection is pushed to its limit: Radio-based solutions offer a comparatively low gross data rate of up to 600 Mbit/s. What remains of that – due to the generally high bit error rate – are net data rates of 20 - 50 percent of the gross data rate. In addition, the transfer speed also has to be shared as soon as more than one user accesses the same network at the same time. So whoever wants to receive or send a large volume of data has to be either very patient or put up with the perpetual toting and handling of cables with fault-susceptible high-frequency connectors.

One alternative to conventional wired solutions like USB, Gigabit-Ethernet, HDMI or Thunderbolt would be the use of light in its visible and infrared ranges as a transfer medium. So-called optical wireless communication utilizes, in the same way as an optical fiber cable, the available, world-wide regulation-free optical light spectrum with bandwidths of several gigabits per second. Optical wireless communication necessitates a clear path between the sender and receiver. However, if this is feasible it has the potential to transfer data up to 100 times faster than currently available solutions which are also backed by very low bit error rates of less then 10-9. In addition optical wireless communication requires only 15 percent of the energy per transferred data byte. That is a great advantage, especially for use in mobile, battery-powered devices such as smartphones or digital cameras. Engineers at Fraunhofer IPMS are working on developing this market. An initial transceiver module – a prototype for short-range optical wireless communication and at 3 Gbit/s speed – will be introduced to the public for the first time at Electronica in Munich from November 13 - 16, 2012.

Transceiver Module – Giga-IR Adapter

This driver-free sender / receiver module unites an optical transceiver and a protocol controller with a high-speed USB interface (USB 2.0). This makes it possible for the user to connect all USB compatible devices (such as memory sticks, cameras, smartphones, PCs, hard drives, video recorders, MP3 players, mouses, keyboards, monitors…) using a Giga‑IR adapter and exchange data wirelessly at high-speed. Additional apps or drivers are not needed. In addition, the Giga-IR adapter has an integrated module for wireless energy transfer. This makes it possible for devices to be powered with electricity or to recharge batteries – with no cables at all. The communication module enables energy savings of 85 percent due to its efficient protocol, and transfers data up to 100 times faster than presently available wireless technologies. Thanks to the use of standard interfaces like USB 2.0 and the IrDA Giga-IR, it can be integrated into commercially available systems. In the future the technology will be expanded to potentially replace even faster wired technologies such as USB 3.0, GigE, HDMI or Thunderbolt.

Fraunhofer IPMS will be presenting the communication module at Fraunhofer Gesellschaft's joint stand on stand 121 in hall A5 (Stand 121, Halle A5).

About Fraunhofer IPMS

Fraunhofer IPMS is a world leading organization for applied research and development in the areas of photonic microsystems, micro system technology and wireless systems. It has been developing optical wireless communication components, modules and systems for many years and provides solutions for all speed ranges up to the gigabit-class as well as for infrared and visible light. It is an active member of the Infrared Data Association (IrDA) and is a founding member of the Li-Fi Consortium.