IBM researchers in Switzerland, along with the Federal Institute of Technology at Lausanne, have created a new analog-to-digital converter (ADC) that can reach speeds of 400 Gbps. Not only is it really fast, but it is also energy efficient, with a total power consumption of only 2.1 watts. As exciting as this news is, it is only in prototype status, and it’s being created for a specific purpose.


Square Kilometer Array (SKA)

The SKA is a several-thousand-antennae array that will span over 3,000 kilometers. This very sensitive radio telescope will scour space looking for more information about the Big Bang. The theory is that by going far enough out into space, the researchers can essentially collect data from hundreds of millions of years ago. According to IBM, the array will house hundreds of thousands of the ADCs and will produce more data per day than 10 times the daily global Internet traffic.

The SKA is not scheduled to be completed until 2024, but the excitement of many scientists and agencies has already begun.

ADC and the Internet

The Internet constantly requires faster speeds to keep up with the demand, and the new IBM chip is the solution. Currently, the Internet crosses over networks that use ADC technology, but it’s nowhere close to the IBM prototype. ZDNet reports that with this chip active, a person can load a two-hour movie in ultra-high definition or 40,000 songs in just seconds.

An earlier version of the protype was licensed to Semtech. The company will use it in advanced radar systems and fiber channels, which are planned for release in less than 12 months.

The Hurdle Is in Upgrading

There is still the obstacle of upgrading hardware to support the chip. It is only good across fiber-optic cable, and even then your computer cannot support it. Special modems and routers will have to be purchased to support the speeds generated by the ADC.

Although the technology advance is great and there are a lot of great uses for the chip, it will not really be ready for regular use for some time. Larger companies have the ability to purchase the required upgrades, but the expense is still too high for the general public. It is one step to an amazing Internet experience, but the average consumer is going to have to wait.

Photo credit: Flickr/Kansir