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SPIDER technology on a chip will speed up the Internet, and more
Aug. 29, 2011
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by Mark Ollig

A process for measuring optical pulses has been successfully merged onto a computing chip and will, before long, replace the high energy-consuming and expensive electronic equipment currently used inside the core of the Internet.

Utilizing a technology called Spectral Phase Interferometry for Direct Electric-Field Reconstruction (SPIDER); this newly designed, ultra-fast operating computing chip will work within the Internet, processing signaling information much more efficiently than the current technology being used.

Incorporating this new technology into the Internet’s core will dramatically speed up processing by providing faster response times of the data traveling from point A to point B.

SPIDER was invented by Professor Ian A. Walmsley, who is a professor of experimental Physics at the University of Oxford, and is a pioneer in quantum optics.

Walmsley is involved in research which manipulates “atoms and molecules using classical light . . . using state of the art laser systems and ancillary technologies.”

The new computing chip using SPIDER came about through the work of an international team led by University of Sydney physicist, Associate Professor David Moss.

Moss is a 2011 Eureka Prize finalist in the category “Innovations in Computer Science.”

This recent announcement of incorporating SPIDER technology onto a silicon chip will open the door to a world of all-optical computing processes, which will overcome the existing speed limitations we have within the electronics used by the technology of today.

The use of SPIDER technology on chips will also be used inside computing devices and communication networks, significantly improving the overall operations of these systems, as well.

The Internet’s fiber-optic network makes use of high-speed signals which manipulate the properties of laser light that transmits coded information.

Up until now, it has only been possible to accurately measure the intensity and phase of these optical light pulses with expensive and bulky laboratory equipment.

“The ability to monitor and characterize these signals has, until now, been restricted to optical laboratories,” Moss said.

The SPIDER chip will be able to integrate with the existing silicon chips being used today.

One of the functions the SPIDER chip does inside optical systems is known as “four-wave mixing intermodulation.” This is the combining of three different optical wavelengths to produce a fourth wavelength within an optical signal.

In addition, according to Moss, the SPIDER chip will provide the ability to measure “state-of-the-art signals” of phase light, when used to encode information sent through fiber-optic networks over the Internet using silicon routing chips.

As we all know, the amount of data streaming over the Internet continues to increase at an incredible rate.

Just consider the sheer volume of all the packets of information traversing within the Internet and into our home computers and mobile computing devices. This explosion of data volume has no doubt increased as a result of more Internet users (and devices) from around the world downloading and uploading huge amounts of video and other kinds of data.

The Internet usage statistics for March 31 from Nielsen Online shows there were 2,095,066,055 total world Internet users, which is roughly 30.2 percent of the world’s population.

The US portion amounts to 245 million Internet users, which is about 78.3 percent of this country’s total population.

These numbers will only increase, as more of the world becomes connected to the Internet.

Currently, the only way to sort the traffic handling requirements of the enormous amounts of data packets navigating over the Internet is by using complex computing hardware comprised of routers and switches.

These devices incorporate silicon chips used in the intelligent processing of the information being sent between the senders and receivers of these data packets.

“Using the SPIDER technology, applications such as telecommunications, high-precision broadband sensing . . . are all set for a major speed upgrade,” explained Moss.

Moss talked about how this SPIDER “on-chip optical integrator” (I attempt to define it as photonic-processing-empowering on a computing chip) as being significant in supporting many optical functions on a chip, including ultra high- speed signal processing, computing, and optical memory.

Walmsley is quoted as saying, “The interaction of light and matter at this fundamental level has broad application, both in physics and in future technologies.”

According to Moss, he trusts the SPIDER chip will have the ability of improving most of the “pieces” that comprise the Internet.

This is truly exciting stuff; we are now entering a new level of controlling and manipulating optical light signal pulses inside the core of the Internet.

Soon, we will see this technology used within our existing optical transport networks, and eventually inside most computing devices.

The University of Oxford SPIDER referenced links are http://tinyurl.com/3cxkrt8 and http://tinyurl.com/3qjaof2.

Just imagine how our future computing devices (utilizing superior bandwidth) connected to those Internet clouds will make use of embedded, ultra-fast SPIDER chip technology.

Three-dimensional high-definition television or virtual-reality holographic video gaming anyone?


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