Infrared technology offers faster wireless data transfer than Wi-Fi and Bluetooth


October 2, 2012

The infrared wireless communication module developed at Fraunhofer can transfer data wirelessly at speeds of 1 Gbps (Photo: Fraunhofer IPMS/Jürgen Lösel)

The infrared wireless communication module developed at Fraunhofer can transfer data wirelessly at speeds of 1 Gbps (Photo: Fraunhofer IPMS/Jürgen Lösel)

Back around the turn of the century, infrared ports for wireless data transfer over short distances were commonplace on many mobile devices. But it wasn't long before infrared communication technology was kicked to the curb in favor of the more versatile radio-based Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies. Fraunhofer researchers are looking to resurrect infrared wireless data transfer technology with the development of a “multi-gigabit communication module” that can wirelessly transfer data 46 times faster than Wi-Fi and 1,430 times faster than Bluetooth.

The new infrared module developed by Frank Deicke, a researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS) in Dresden, boasts a data transfer rate of 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), making it not only significantly faster than conventional Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless technologies, but also six times faster than a wired USB 2.0 connection.

The small infrared module developed by Deicke and his colleagues specifically for the wireless transfer of large amounts of video between devices consists of hardware and software components. The hardware includes a transceiver about the size of a child’s fingernail that contains a laser diode to send infrared light pulses and a photo detector to receive them. This optical component is able to send and receive light signals simultaneously.

Because the light signals become weakened and distorted when traveling through the air, the researchers programmed error-correction mechanisms into the module, along with high-speed signal processing to overcome the bottleneck in the encoding of the data before transmission and subsequent decoding at the receiving device. This helps reduce the encoding/decoding load placed on the microprocessors, which helps keep energy consumption down.

As an optical technology, the module still requires a clear line of sight between the communicating devices, but Deicke says this isn't a problem as it was designed for transferring data between two nearby devices, such as a camera or smartphone and a PC or laptop.

Deicke and his team admit that the technology needs to be accepted as standard by manufacturers before it can catch on, which is why he is an active member of the Infrared Data Association (IrDA) and contributes to the “10 Giga-IR working group,” the name of which provides a hint at the planned next step for the technology.

“Our current infrared module has already demonstrated that infrared technology is able to go far beyond established standards,” he says. “We plan to improve performance even more in the future.”

Having already achieved data transfer rates of 3 Gbps with his current model, he hopes that 10 Gbps speeds are not too far away.

Source: Fraunhofer

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Maybe it's just me but I don't think we are far enough into this century to use the phrase "Back at the turn of the century".


infrared was ditched in favour of radio for one primary reason.

It requires line of sight. That makes it a pain in the neck to use.


Its line of sight which in my books equals useless in todays typical use environment.. Maybe for very specific applications but not for consumer.

Rocky Stefano

Someone likes to stream HD videos... Except, there's one problem with this tech that I don't see how their error-correcting programming is going to addressing it. Sunlight. Inferred tech likes drak and grim places. Like laboratories... It's like a vampire. Keep it away from sunlight, or it will combust.

Nitrozzy Seven

At 1-3 or 10 gbps data transfer rate, the two devices (mobile phones for example) only need to be held or placed near each other for few seconds in order to transfer huge amounts of data. I assume that the software can resume transfer if line of sight was lost for a brief time. Old infra red ports in phones were modems with speeds in Kbps, this is a different beast

Abu Hmeid

Yes, sunlight is a big road block. One fine morning, my TV remote failed to function, and I was lucky to quickly discover that the set-top box was under sunlight. Thanks to guys working on higher speeds with IR, it will definitely have some usecase.

Padmanabha Reddy
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