InfraRed connections used to be commonplace on PDAs and other mobile devices, but fell from favor as WiFi and Bluetooth proliferated; now, researchers into high-speed optical data at Fraunhofer want to bring it back. Six times faster than USB 2.0, the "multi-gigabit communication module" requires line-of-sight but can offload HD video from a camcorder to a PC in seconds, the research team behind it claims.
The magic - which makes it 46x faster than WiFi and 1,430x faster than Bluetooth - is in the combination of signal processing and the IR optics themselves. Skipping transfer to radio signals, instead the Fraunhofer approach uses a laser diode and a photo detector that can fit into a transceiver roughly "the size of a child's fingernail" for simultaneous high-speed transmission and reception.
The decoder, too, has been polished with special error-correction systems to counteract weakened or distorted light signals. Put your camcorder next to your laptop and it can achieve anything between 1 Gbps and 3 Gbps, with the next goal being 10 Gbps.
While IR may not seem particularly important these days, the Infrared Data Association would beg to differ, and Fraunhofer is working with the group to push the high-speed laser-IR as an alternative for traditional wired and wireless connections.