While computer manufacturers may just be getting their heads around USB 3.0, it seems there are much bigger revolutions on the horizon. Intel’s Light Peak solution is an exciting new laser technology that is promising transfer speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second, and will give transfer technology somewhere to grow beyond the limitations of copper wire.
Copper interconnects are fast approaching their limitations, and developers are looking for new ways to transmit information without the electromagnetic interference that goes hand in hand with copper wire. Because Light Peak uses lasers rather than electrical signals, there is less interference and more opportunity for long distance transmission.
The team at Intel developing this technology do not see it as a replacement for HDMI or DisplayPort technology, and more as a complement to existing protocols. However, it seems that smartphones are also due to join the laser revolution in the next few years. Victor Krutul, director of the I/O optical team at Intel and former Light Peak head-engineer offers this usage example:
“One of our usage models is consumer electronic devices. What’s really happening with smart phones is they are getting more intelligent and want to [consume] content. As long as I have a movie on there, why not allow me to display it on the television? Say I’m on a business trip, I check into my hotel room, and now I want to sit back on the bed, using my phone to control the movie while watching it on TV.”
However with the speeds Light Peak will be capable of, there are sure to be much more exotic applications than this. Intel are expecting Light Peak to obtain 100 Gbps speeds eventually, and that it will have a 10-year plus lifespan in which to do so. Victor Krutul offers this explanation of the mechanisms of laser transfer technology:
“There is a way to do something called WDM: wavelength division multiplexing. We put multiple colors of light down one fiber, with each laser at a different color or wavelength. Then we can use a prism-like device at both ends to multiplex the lights together, or to split them into separate colors, and convert it all back into electrons. So yes, later generations will scale to more bands of light and an even higher bandwidth.”