Electronic Design

2D Communications Sheet Challenges 3D Trends

Last month, Teijin Fibers unveiled a 2D communication sheet that it says provides simple, secure wireless local-area network (WLAN) connections. According to the company, communications are rapidly migrating from 1D cable to 3D wireless topologies, while it forges development in the 2D domain.

With the growing trend toward 3D communications, this 2D approach may seem like a step backward. But Teijin Fibers, which primarily designs and creates unique synthetic fibers, films, and plastics for applications in the pharmaceutical, retail/trading, and IT markets, disagrees.

We don’t often see wired or wireless communications described in terms of dimensions, a terminology more often found in graphics and visual media arenas. However, the terminology seems appropriate for detailing Teijin’s efforts in developing a unique medium for 2D communications.

Standard D topologies transm it data over wired networks, an approach that is highly secure yet very complicated in terms of physical-layout issues. Meanwhile, 3D communications rely purely on wireless signals, which can ease deployment tasks while posing certain security risks and occasional RF interference problems.

Dubbed the Cell Form, Teijin Fibers’ unique 2D communication sheet employs a proprietary technology that confines electromagnetic waves to a cell within and around a thin sheet made of special materials (see the figure).

Setting up a connection with the sheet is apparently fairly simple, entailing the placement of a laptop computer equipped for WLANs on top of the sheet. Notably, this sheet may extend to several meters in length to support multiple computers simultaneously.

A microwave signal travels through the sheet, causing a signal of shorter wavelength to saturate from the sheet’s surface deeper into its fabric. This signal with the shorter wavelength is more aptly known as an evanescent wave because the shorter signal disperses in a wide pattern across the medium. This localized signal, the one confined to a cell within or around the sheet, helps prevent the signal theft often associated with wireless networks.

Teijin Fibers says this approach yields a reliably secure, high-speed, low-power transmission/reception topology between the computer and the sheet. As an aesthetic side benefit, the Cell Form sheet abets the creation of cleaner, sleeker-looking offices and other working areas by eliminating the complicated cabling and some of the hardware necessary for small and large networks.

Aside from simplifying wireless network chores, the Cell Form’s chief advantages probably are its security features. Even the company believes one of its most promising applications is its potential use with products featuring radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. Such a scheme is currently under co-development with Cellcross.

As an example, products carrying concealed RFID tags can be identified the moment they are lifted off a Cell Form sheet. RFID signals are detected via the sheet, which functions as an antenna. According to Teijin Fibers, stable reception is possible even when metal objects are nearby, as well as in environments unfriendly to radio waves.

If all this is true, the technology is a viable contender for anti-theft and real-time inventory applications in a variety of retail and other businesses. Other potential applications include substitutes for wire harnesses and signal cables in cars and airplanes, artificial skins for robots, wearable computing components, gaming systems in amusement parks, and wireless power supplies.

The Cell Form communication technology, also known as @CELL, is the brainchild of Cellcross Co. Ltd., which is a spinoff venture company from the University of Tokyo. Teijin Fibers owns approximately a 10% share of the venture in addition to contributing special materials and manufacturing techniques. Cell Form is available commercially under the product name LAN Sheet from Itoki Corp.

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