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Finding Audiovisual Nirvana Fiberoptics and active optical cables are helping to usher it in. By Samir Desai Cosemi Technologies


he past can teach us much about the future, especially when it comes to the rise and eventual predominance of winning technologies. Throughout the past three decades, the rapid acceleration of innovations in semiconductors, IT, telecommunications and the Internet of Things (IoT) has led consumers and businesses alike to become accustomed to more data, more connectivity, more life-enhancing applications, more artificial intelligence (AI), more ultra and virtual reality (VR), and visual and auditor y clarity enhancements that nearly blow our minds. The stunning advancements in a wide variety of technologies, which profoundly change the way we view the world and live our days and nights, are almost euphoria-inducing. Indeed, it’s reminiscent of a memorable 1969 psychedelic soul-funk song, “I Want to Take You Higher,” by Sly and the Family Stone. (If you’re not familiar, check out their amazing live rendition of the song from the revolutionar y Woodstock music festival.) The Silicon Valley version of “I Want to Take You Higher” might go something like this: Data’s gettin’ bigger. Adding ultra high-def, too. Baby, we need lots more bandwidth… computin’ power… You know it’s comin’. I wanna take you higher! Ultra-HD video, including 4K and 8K, has created the need for faster, more reliable communications over increasingly longer distances. These advances also call for translation-free data transmission and intermediate aggregation to allow 36 Sound & Communications September 2019

full-fidelity, raw, uncompressed AV data transfers. Today’s AV systems thrive on higher bandwidth, which is provided by advancements in two winning, predominant technologies: fiberoptics and optoelectronics mashed up to an interconnect solution generally called an active optical cable (AOC).

Fiber’s Superiority Plays To Market Demands Underlying technologies cause the bandwidth gap between fiber and copper. Fiber interconnects use thin bundles of optical fibers, or strands of ver y pure glass as narrow as a human hair, to transmit data using pulses of laser light. Copper cables literally use copper wires, and they’re a significantly bulkier technology, first designed to carr y voice-call data via electrical pulse.

More Bandwidth The bandwidth differences between copper and fiberoptics are effectively the difference between electrons and photons. Copper uses electrons for data transmission, whereas fiber uses photons. Optoelectronic and data-communication technology investments over the past two decades have made it easier to transmit and receive massive amounts of data, over longer distances, using fiberoptics than had ever been previously possible using copper connections. Think about a ’69 Pontiac GTO. With all its power, it could reach 60mph in 6.6sec. Today’s base Tesla 3 can do that in 5.3sec. In many respects, it’s synonymous with opto-electrifying AV applications to enhance, extend and evolve our favorite interconnect options of HDMI, DisplayPort and USB in enterprise, medical, industrial and residential settings.

Better Durability All data signals degrade over a range, but fiber offers significantly better signal durability. Fiber only loses three percent of the signal over distances greater than 328 feet, as compared to copper’s 94-percent loss of signal. Fiberoptic bundles do not conduct electrical currents, making fiber data connections fully resistant to electromagnetic interference, lightning or radio signals. Copper cables, conversely, are designed to conduct electricity; this makes copper internet vulnerable to power lines, lightning and deliberate signal scrambling. Copper cable can easily be broken during an installation or by accident. Despite its large size, copper has a low tolerance for tension. Fiber, conversely, is smaller, lighter and more durable than copper cabling is, and it can generally only be damaged through delib-

Profile for Sound & Communications

Sound & Communications September 2019, Vol 65 No 9  

This month, we dive into the AV science of entertainment venues. The iconic Royal Albert Hall’s new sound design and audio systems bring it...

Sound & Communications September 2019, Vol 65 No 9  

This month, we dive into the AV science of entertainment venues. The iconic Royal Albert Hall’s new sound design and audio systems bring it...