The Future of Wireless Technology

Wireless technology has always lagged behind wired technology somewhat. Slower internet speeds, frustrating mobile browsing experiences, cause many users and especially high-end gamers to adopt the ‘wired’ accessories due to concerns over lag issues. Will wireless ever catch up, or are we doomed to live in a world whereby the wired solution will always be one step ahead? Movies based in the future can often be scarily accurate, and how they portray future wireless technology is probably no exception.

Why has Wired Always been Better?

wirelessDuring a thunderstorm you’ll notice that you hear the thunder up to a few seconds after seeing the lightning. This is because sound travels slower than light. This is the basis of the problem we’re experiencing with wireless technology. Light always travels the fastest. This is why optical was such a big deal when they first came out – because they are based on data transmission using light technology in a cost efficient and reliable consumer product.

Much of computing technology today relies on electrical transmission of data, which moves at one tenth the speed of light. It’s widely believed that in the future we will be using computers based on light, and quantum technology. Optical (light) technology has been used for quite a while now, but only for relatively basic applications such as the simple transmission of data from one place to another.

Using this optical technology in more advanced areas is a different task altogether and involves the clever manipulation of light, effectively making the light behave how we choose.

What uses Optical Technology?

Computer mice are a great example of how we use optical technology today. They work using a diode that emits light to determine where the mouse is on your mouse pad, and which direction it’s moving in. This is how your mouse pointer moves across your computer screen.

Newer technology even includes a laser diode for enhanced resolution and precision. This is a selling point for high-end gaming mice which employ the use of ‘DPI’ or ‘dots per inch’. This number has recently gone over the 10,000 dots per inch mark, which effectively translates to 10,000 pieces of movement tracking data per inch. The reason that optical mice often don’t work on glass tables is that the light can’t be beamed back to the mouse, but simply goes through the table and the data is effectively lost.

It’s been around for quite a while too!

That’s right, optical data has been around longer than you may realize, and was even a basis for the way CD players gathered data from CDs to play back on a music. With every new area optical technology has been employed on a consumer grade level, it has changed the product entirely. From cassette tapes to CDs, video game cartridges to CDs and DVDs, and analog sound cables to optical sound cables.

Where is Wireless technology headed?

The University of Minnesota has engineers that have developed a chip which employs the use of sound waves, as well as light waves which are tightly confined together within the same space. This might not sound amazing on its own, but the breakthrough here is that the sound waves are able to control the light waves. This new technology could be used to improve wireless communication systems in the future, along with the possibility of being used with computation in quantum physics. Quantum computers have been considered one of the holy grails of technology and great progress has been made in recent years in making them a reality. There have been some workable models which could be applicable for very specific situations, but nothing that can yet be used on a consumer grade level.

This new chip uses a silicon coating, with a layer of aluminum nitrade. The aluminum is the part that conducts the electrical charge. An ‘earthquake’ like effect is then used to deform the material on the surface of the chip, thereby creating soundwaves which look like an earthquake. This has been done before, but the difference here is that the integration of optical circuits has made the harmony between sound and light much stronger.

What this boils down to, is the faster transmission of data due to the fact that sound and light are now working together and not against one another.

Engineers at the University of Minnesota have also begun looking closer at the possible applications for this chip in quantum devices. Photons are the smallest units of light, and phonons are the smallest unit of sound. In order to apply this chip to quantum devices, the interactions between photons and phonons needs to be better understood.

How Far Away is the Application of this Technology?

No one knows for sure, but progress is being made every day and wireless advancement is believed to be one of the great viable stepping stones by which progress can be made. You may have noticed the computing speed advancement has slowed down over the past couple of years. We’ve somewhat reached a limit in how fast computers can ‘think’ with our current technology. This is part of the reason why research and development is taking place in these areas, in order to overcome these restrictions and barriers currently holding us back.

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