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Intel’s Silicon and Laser Hook-Up Means Speedier Data Transfer, Reliant on Fiber

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Imagine a world where it takes just one second to download a terabyte of data. Well, that world just got a little bit closer, with Intel’s breakthrough, known as silicon photonics, in data transfer methods. It works using a combination of lasers (wooh! Lasers!! And all that!!!) and chips to convert data into light signals, send them up a fiber optic cable, then convert the light signals back into its original data form. So does this really mean high-definition movie downloads in less than a second from iTunes? That, my dears, is a question for the FCC and the network providers, I’m afraid.

Is this the kind of technology which will benefit you, the consumer, or is it something whose goodness will only be felt by they, the companies? Well, it’s a bit of both, actually. First of all, however, there is no doubting the accuracy of the device–Intel claims
that over 27 hours, one petabyte of data was transferred with zero
error.

Intel’s video above talks about how this will reform data centers, doing away with cable spaghetti, and meaning that the networks will be able to handle vast tracts of data–something the London mayor mentioned on Tuesday at the two-years-to-go Olympics occasion. It’s probably worth filing this news alongside two subjects we’ve already touched on: Cisco’s backend hardware that they trumpeted would revolutionize the mobile experience, and SeaMicro’s Intel chip-using mini super-computers.

Further down the line, speed-hungry consumers will, apparently, be the proud possessors of “hyperdocks” to enhance their mobile capabilities. Now, hold on a minute, superfast data transfer fans, i can see you jumping up and down in confusion. Yes, you remember Light Peak, Intel’s cable that uses laser fiber optic links alongside conventional electric wires, and a rival to the much-vaunted USB 3, which made its debut at this year’s CES. While Light Peak allows you to connect your peripherals to your computer and power the whole shaboodle up at the same time, Intel’s latest breakthrough is data-only.

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As with all speed-enhancing breakthroughs, it’s all down to the medium
in which it travels. So, as long as the U.S. is reliant on copper wire
cables, Intel’s system is pretty useless. Replace the copper wire, which gives top
download speeds of around 10Gb per second, with fiber optics and then we can talk. For comparison’s sake, fiber + the Intel chip ‘n’
laser technology = 50 Gb/s. Nice figure, babe.

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About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.

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