Science

Infrared technology offers faster wireless data transfer than Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

The infrared wireless communication module developed at Fraunhofer can transfer data wirelessly at speeds of 1 Gbps (Photo: Fraunhofer IPMS/Jürgen Lösel)
The infrared wireless communication module developed at Fraunhofer can transfer data wirelessly at speeds of 1 Gbps (Photo: Fraunhofer IPMS/Jürgen Lösel)
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The infrared wireless communication module developed at Fraunhofer can transfer data wirelessly at speeds of 1 Gbps (Photo: Fraunhofer IPMS/Jürgen Lösel)
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The infrared wireless communication module developed at Fraunhofer can transfer data wirelessly at speeds of 1 Gbps (Photo: Fraunhofer IPMS/Jürgen Lösel)

Back around the turn of the century, infrared ports for wireless data transfer over short distances were commonplace on many mobile devices. But it wasn't long before infrared communication technology was kicked to the curb in favor of the more versatile radio-based Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies. Fraunhofer researchers are looking to resurrect infrared wireless data transfer technology with the development of a “multi-gigabit communication module” that can wirelessly transfer data 46 times faster than Wi-Fi and 1,430 times faster than Bluetooth.

The new infrared module developed by Frank Deicke, a researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS) in Dresden, boasts a data transfer rate of 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), making it not only significantly faster than conventional Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless technologies, but also six times faster than a wired USB 2.0 connection.

The small infrared module developed by Deicke and his colleagues specifically for the wireless transfer of large amounts of video between devices consists of hardware and software components. The hardware includes a transceiver about the size of a child’s fingernail that contains a laser diode to send infrared light pulses and a photo detector to receive them. This optical component is able to send and receive light signals simultaneously.

Because the light signals become weakened and distorted when traveling through the air, the researchers programmed error-correction mechanisms into the module, along with high-speed signal processing to overcome the bottleneck in the encoding of the data before transmission and subsequent decoding at the receiving device. This helps reduce the encoding/decoding load placed on the microprocessors, which helps keep energy consumption down.

As an optical technology, the module still requires a clear line of sight between the communicating devices, but Deicke says this isn't a problem as it was designed for transferring data between two nearby devices, such as a camera or smartphone and a PC or laptop.

Deicke and his team admit that the technology needs to be accepted as standard by manufacturers before it can catch on, which is why he is an active member of the Infrared Data Association (IrDA) and contributes to the “10 Giga-IR working group,” the name of which provides a hint at the planned next step for the technology.

“Our current infrared module has already demonstrated that infrared technology is able to go far beyond established standards,” he says. “We plan to improve performance even more in the future.”

Having already achieved data transfer rates of 3 Gbps with his current model, he hopes that 10 Gbps speeds are not too far away.

Source: Fraunhofer

7 comments
Rt1583
Maybe it's just me but I don't think we are far enough into this century to use the phrase "Back at the turn of the century".
Adrien
infrared was ditched in favour of radio for one primary reason. It requires line of sight. That makes it a pain in the neck to use.
Rocky Stefano
Its line of sight which in my books equals useless in todays typical use environment.. Maybe for very specific applications but not for consumer.
Nitrozzy Seven
Someone likes to stream HD videos... Except, there's one problem with this tech that I don't see how their error-correcting programming is going to addressing it. Sunlight. Inferred tech likes drak and grim places. Like laboratories... It's like a vampire. Keep it away from sunlight, or it will combust.
Abu Hmeid
At 1-3 or 10 gbps data transfer rate, the two devices (mobile phones for example) only need to be held or placed near each other for few seconds in order to transfer huge amounts of data. I assume that the software can resume transfer if line of sight was lost for a brief time. Old infra red ports in phones were modems with speeds in Kbps, this is a different beast
Padmanabha Reddy
Yes, sunlight is a big road block. One fine morning, my TV remote failed to function, and I was lucky to quickly discover that the set-top box was under sunlight. Thanks to guys working on higher speeds with IR, it will definitely have some usecase.
AaronSmith
This infrared laser device will have serious use outdoors when trying to transfer data from line of sight buildings or a guest house etc. Then the data can be transferred over WiFi again for areas not in line of sight. This way you could use this to transfer data long distances without wiring. With WiFi and infrared laser combination together you could essentially have wireless access anywhere. I suppose you could have laser repeaters that could bend the data around corners or tree and roof obstructions as well.
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