When refrigerators argue with toasters

In 2030, 500 billion devices worldwide will be connected to the Internet, according to estimates. In addition to cars, smartphones and tablets, they will also include fitness trackers, refrigerators and maybe even food with connected labels. For this vision of a connected future to become reality, it must be ensured that different devices don’t get in each other’s way in their wireless communication over the Internet.

The “Christian Doppler Laboratory for Technology-Guided Electronic Component Design and Characterization” of the Graz University of Technology makes an important contribution in this context. With AT&S as its industry partner, the laboratory develops possibilities to pack the required electronic components very densely, without them interfering with one another. This is already a challenge with today’s technology, but it will be even more difficult in the future as devices are getting ever smaller and the frequencies involved are increasingly higher.

Small and talkative

Since the introduction of smartphones it goes without saying that electronic devices communicate with the Internet. As devices are getting ever smaller, it also means that the individual components they consist of decrease in size. In a fitness tracker, the processor, storage and communication modules have to be located even closer together than in a smartphone. If we intend to develop smart contact lenses in the future, this development is still far from reaching its limit.

As a result, it is becoming more difficult to prevent undesired interactions between the individual system components. Systems and circuits must be planned very accurately in order to ensure that they can fulfill their function. In addition, the number of devices is also increasing. That means that not only the components of a single device, but also several different devices could get in each other’s way.

Difficult high frequency

To prevent this from happening, design engineers increasingly turn to higher-frequency signal transmissions. This also has the advantage that the growing demand for fast data transmission can be better satisfied. The new 5G mobile communication standard for example also relies on high-frequency transmission. It will be used to connect household appliances, cars and entire cities with super-fast, wireless data transmission in the future.

However, if we want to be able to stream video games on our wireless contact lenses any time soon, it must be ensured that antennas and electronics of all the countless devices in the new connected world do not get in each other’s way. Even one single kitchen of the future may have dozens of devices that depend on continuous data connection. To ensure that a toaster streaming music from the Internet does not have to argue about the connection with a fridge that wants to order fresh milk, it is vital that wireless transmission technology works smoothly.

Published On: December 3, 2020

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