stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Sat Feb 23 21:35:50 EST 2008

Ten dollar chip puts Australia on the fast track

Nick Miller February 22, 2008 - 1:18PM 

A new silicon chip developed in Melbourne is predicted to revolutionise
the way household gadgets like televisions, phones and DVD players talk to
each other.

The tiny five-millimetre-a-side chip can transmit data through a wireless
connection at a breakthrough five gigabits per second over distances of up
to 10 metres. An entire high-definition movie from a video shop kiosk
could be transmitted to a mobile phone in a few seconds, and the phone
could then upload the movie to a home computer or screen at the same speed.

The 'GiFi' was unveiled today at the Melbourne University based laboratory 
of NICTA, the national information and communications technology research

"I believe in the longer term every consumer device will have this
technology," said project leader, Professor Stan Skafidas, who with his
team spent almost a decade developing the chip.

Hotly contested area

Short-range wireless technology is a hotly contested area, with research
teams around the world racing to be the first to launch such a product.

Professor Skafidas said his team is the first to demonstrate a working
transceiver-on-a-chip that uses CMOS (complementary metal-oxide
semiconductor) technology - the cheap, ubiquitous technique that prints
silicon chips.

This means his team is head and shoulders in front of the competition in
terms of price and power demand. His chip uses only a tiny one-millimetre
wide antenna and less than two watts of power, and would cost less than
$10 to manufacture.

It uses the 60GHz "millimetre wave" spectrum to transmit the data, which
gives it an advantage over WiFi (wireless internet). WiFi's part of the
spectrum is increasingly crowded, sharing the waves with devices such as
cordless phones, which leads to interference and slower speeds.

But the millimetre wave spectrum (30 to 300 GHz) is almost unoccupied, and
the new chip is potentially hundreds of times faster than the average home
WiFi unit. However, WiFi still benefits from being able to provide
wireless coverage over a greater distance.

Victoria's minister for information and communication technology, Theo
Theophanous, said it showed Victoria was at the cutting edge of IT 

He praised the 27-member team which worked on the development of the chip.
The high-powered team included 10 PhDs students from the University of
Melbourne and collaborated with companies such as computer giant IBM
during the research.

"This new technology will dramatically change the way data and content
rich information is managed in the office and the home, as well as
enabling new applications," Mr Theophanous said. "The possibilities are

'Several breakthroughs in one'

For Professor Skafidas, the chip is several breakthroughs in one. It
includes a world-first power amplifier that is only a few microns wide,
with a micron being one 300th the width of a human hair.

It also has world's first signal mixing and filter technology, and a
switch that isolates the transmitter and receiver so they do not interfere
with each other.

There is about another year's worth of work on the chip before it is ready
to be marketed to the public, he said, and the team still needs to develop
technology that injects data into the transceiver.

Professor Skafidas said he sees several ways the technology could be put
to use. It could be used to transfer data-rich content such as video
around the home between different storage and display devices, and it
could help turn a mobile device into a "shopping cart" for data.

A mobile device could also become a fully-fledged computer through the
GiFi, simply by placing it near similarly-equipped peripherals such as a
screen, extra storage, optical drives, a keyboard and mouse

Cheers people
Stephen Loosley
Victoria, Australia

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