Europe is experiencing a flurry of technology developments as companies address the growing communications demands of the 21st century—networking technology, fiber-optic security, and power consumption in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications.
Belgium-based nanoelectronics research center IMEC and Panasonic Corp. have agreed to work together on advanced technologies in the semiconductor, networking, wireless, and biomedical fields. The research will be performed at the Leuven facilities and IMEC’s research unit at Holst Centre in Eindhoven.
Panasonic has been working with IMEC on research into semiconductor process technologies since 2004. One of the results of this cooperation was the world’s first mass production of system-on-a-chip (SoC) technology within 65- and 45-nm processes. Now, this joint research program covering most of the research areas that IMEC is involved in will expand its scope to include applications involving semiconductors.
That’s why the Panasonic IMEC Centre will be established at the IMEC premises. It will work on network technology such as dynamically reconfigurable softwaredefined radio, ultra-low power consumption wireless communication technology for healthcare and lifestyle monitoring, and biomedical technology such as nextgeneration biosensors.
HINDERING THE HACKERS
Hackers will find it harder to break into secure optical-fiber networks following a cryptography breakthrough by researchers at England’s Cambridge Research Lab at Toshiba Research Europe facility. The team’s techniques will increase the bit rate of quantum key distribution (QKD) more than a hundred-fold. The breakthrough will allow QKD to be applied to multi-user optical-fiber networks.
QKD technology is used to distribute secret digital keys on optical fiber. Unlike algorithm-based techniques, the security of the keys formed by QKD can be tested and guaranteed. The Toshiba system uses a QKD protocol satisfying stringent security assumptions to form keys that are secure from all types of hacking on the communication channel.
Until now, QKD application has been hampered by its relatively low bit rate, which is typically less than 10 kbits/s for a 20-km fiber link. While sufficient for secure point-to-point links, such bit rates are too low for networks with multiple users. This is because many pairs of users share the secure key rate in a network. The Toshiba breakthrough provides more than 1 Mbit/s for a 20-km link.
Cryptography is essential to protect electronic business communication and e-commerce. These transactions depend on digital keys that are shared between legitimate users and ideally must be hacker-proof. QKD sends encoded single photons (particles of light) along the fiber. Any attempt by a hacker to intercept these photons scrambles their encoding, alerting users that their key isn’t secure.
The Toshiba QKD system uses a oneway architecture and the decoy protocol, which has been proven to satisfy “unconditional secrecy.” In other words, the security doesn’t rely on assumptions about the technology available to an eavesdropper.
Current QKD systems are limited by the semiconductor devices (avalanche photodiodes) used to detect the single photons. One photon triggers an avalanche of millions of electrons, which can be sensed by electrical circuitry in the QKD system.
The problem in present systems is that some of these avalanche electrons can be trapped in the device, prompting an erroneous detection count. As these noise counts cause errors in the key, current detectors must be operated with long dead times to allow the decay of any trapped electrons. This limits the clock rate of current QKD systems to around 10 MHz and thus the secure key bit rate to less than 10 kbits/s for a 20-km fiber.
The researchers have devised a method to detect much weaker electron avalanches. It reduces the chance of an electron being trapped, allowing the detector to be operated at much faster rates. Using this method, Toshiba has increased the clock rate of its QKD system to 1.036 GHz, approaching the value used in conventional optical communications.
The technology allows a raw bit rate of 9 Mbits/s over 20 km of fiber, which in turn provides 1.02 Mbits/s of secure key. This is the first time that a secure bit rate exceeding 1 Mbit/s has been achieved. The new system also displays record bit rates for longer optical fiber lengths. For a 100-km fiber, the secure bit rate is 10.1 kbits/s. This is over an order of magnitude higher than previously reported values.
CUTTING VoIP POWER
The SC14450 from German company SiTel Semiconductor can cut power consumption on VoIP applications by as much as 50%. Performed on a dual 10/100 Ethernet VoIP desktop phone, company tests recorded power consumption during a telephone call of less than 800 mW.
SiTel recently released modified versions of its Enterprise VoIP development kits, featuring hardware and software enhancements that optimize the use of power within VoIP applications.
These modifications have been tested in a dual 10/100 Ethernet VoIP desktop phone development kit based on the SC14450 VoIP processor. The phone also includes Power over Ethernet (PoE) capabilities, an LCD, and keyboard LEDs. The net power consumption measured after PoE was found to be 569.4 mW in idle mode and 785.0 mW and 796.5 mW during G.711 and G.722 calls, respectively.
A recent draft version of a European Commission Regulation on ecodesign (implementing Directive 2005/32/EC) proposes limiting the standby power consumption of domestic and office devices to 2 W if the device has an information or status display and 1 W otherwise. A future second phase will further tighten these limits to 1 W and 0.5 W. Phones based on SiTel’s VoIP processors and using these latest enhancements meet these proposed requirements, the company says.