Silicon photonics coming to computing mainstream says EELive! speaker

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Smartphones will soon get smaller antennas made with conductive inks, and it won't be long before datacenters get silicon photonics capable of carrying terabits per second, according to Rob Shaddock, chief technology officer at TE Connectivity.

Shaddock will speak at an executive summit on the Internet of Things at EE Live! next week.

TE has been working on smartphone and tablet antennas for about three years. Today's models have to handle multiple frequency bands for the latest 4G cellular and MIMO-based WiFi standards, Shaddock says.

The next leap is about saving space by eliminating the traditional stamped metal parts. “Now they are moving to molded plastic structures electroplated with conductors, and then we will go to a next generation using printed inks and printed technologies.”

Engineers aim to create materials with conductivity as good as copper that can be printed into fine structures reliably in high volumes. “They will first emerge in smartphones,” says Shaddock. “It's all about saving space.”

“Consumers won't pay for a better antenna, but they will complain if the reception is poor, so the challenge is to have great radio performance while creating space to put in electronics consumer will pay for, like higher density cameras.”

Shaddock knows something about the packaging challenges of smartphones. He helped lead the design team behind Motorola's Razer phone back in the day.

At the other end of the spectrum, TE also has in its labs silicon photonics that will deliver Tbit/s links for computer racks in datacenters. “We've been working in that space for a couple years now,” he said, as the next big thing after the 100G active optical assemblies it is selling today.

“We dream of architecting the datacenter around photonic waves rather than copper signals.” Optical networks based on wavelength-division multiplexing “is common in long-haul telecom networks, and we can see over the next five years there will be more WDM in the server and datacenter world.”

Human connectivity is one of the top challenges for the CTO of the connector company that employs 7,500 engineers across 13 business units: “My big challenge is connecting the dots between engineers and our businesses… We are trying to create a connected design environment.”

Reminder: You can still purchase an EE Live! 2014 All Access pass or register for a free Expo pass at the event’s official site. But don't wait! The last day to register online for the event is Thursday, March 27, 2014.

EE Live! and the Embedded Systems Conference are owned by UBM Tech, which also owns  Embedded.com and EE Times.

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