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Zurich inventions in infrared products

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Zurich, Switzerland, May 1999—In late May 1999, IBM announced the first family of high-speed, low-cost, multipoint wireless networking products based on the Advanced Infrared (AIr) connectivity standard. AIr technology enables users to connect and collaborate instantly in a wireless environment via mobile computers, printers, wireless modems, local area networks (LANs), cell phones, and related home/office networking devices. IBM's AIr products are expected to be available in the third quarter of 1999.

The products comprise an AIr transceiver module and a single-chip controller, which is also being marketed as a macro, as well as device drivers and software support. These components have been developed by IBM Toronto, Canada, in close collaboration with IBM Research teams at the Zurich Research Laboratory and the T.J. Watson Research Center. The AIr concept is based on a variable-rate transmission scheme invented at Zurich, which significantly improves transmission reliability in the presence of channel impairments, such as changing ambient light conditions or transmission distance, or blocked line of sight. Owing to its collision-avoidance properties achieved by novel frame headers and transceiver parity, this transmission scheme also allows many device to connect simultaneously without aiming.

The Zurich Infrared team of Fritz Gfeller, Walter Hirt, and Beat Weiss demonstrated the concept with a prototype infrared modem and worked closely with the Toronto development team, which implemented the modem in its IBM AIr controller product, as well as with the Watson research teams at Hawthorne, responsible for the development of the multiple-access (MAC) scheme, and at Yorktown, responsible for the design of the infrared transceivers.

Adoption of IBM's AIr transmission concept as a standard by the Infrared Data Association (IrDA) earlier this year will ensure that AIr devices will eventually be employed in a large variety of computing and networking devices. In addition to the AIr standard, IrDA also adopted a new 16 Mbit/s high-speed option for point-to-point transmission, which employs a new coding scheme developed by the Zurich Infrared team in cooperation with colleagues at IBM's Almaden Research Center.

Press contact

Nicole Strachowski
Media Relations
IBM Research - Zurich
Tel +41 44 724 84 45

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