Is Google Aiming at Building Faster Networks and Data Transmissions?

Last July, a Google Blog post titled More Wood Behind Fewer Arrows announced the closing of Google Labs, where a number of experimental projects taking place at Google were available for the public to explore and try out. Many of those projects sprouted out of Google’s 20 percent time approach, where engineers are encouraged to spend one day a week, or 20 percent of their time, working on projects that aren’t necessarily part of their job description. Amongst those projects starting out as 20 percent time projects are Gmail, Adsense for content, Orkut, and Google Suggest. We’ve been told that the 20 percent initiative isn’t going away, but Google seems to be growing a little more secretive.

When Eric Schmidt stepped down as CEO of Google, and Larry Page took over that role, Co-Founder Sergey Brin’s position of the company was redefined as well, and we were told that he would be in charge of “special projects” at Google. A New York Times article published in November of last year told us about Google’s Lab of Wildest Dreams or a “top-secret lab in an undisclosed Bay Area location where robots run free,” referred to as Google X. This is the home of Google’s Driverless cars. It’s a place where “shoot for the stars” type technology is being explored.

It might also now be the home to a project that has roots in a technology essential to the laying of the transatlantic cable back in the 1860s, developed by Oliver Heavyside.

Imagine a technology that could dramatically improve the throughput of data signals within circuit boards, within desktop computers and servers and routers. While providing search services, Google has been building its own servers and building things like modular data centers.

In February of 2011, the EE Times reported on a new innovation for printed circuit board technology, in the article A mid-life kicker for circuit board technology. There they told us that:

After more than 70 years of manufacturing development and more than a hundred billion square feet of boards produced, what could possibility be new in printed circuit board technology?

At DesignCon 2011, Jamal Izadian, founder of RFConnext, partnering with Julian Ferry, high speed engineering manager with Samtec, introduced a novel design for lower loss and higher bandwidth transmission lines using conventional circuit board manufacturing technology.

A white paper from that DesignCon 2011 presentation, Novel Transmission Line for 40 GHz PCB Applications (pdf) tells us more about this innovation, describing the development of Periodic Micro Transmission Line technology. Here’s a high level description of one of the problems that this technology addresses:

One challenge meeting multi-terabit data flow requirements in advanced routers and servers is squeezing more bandwidth out of traditional methods and materials.

The RFConnext web site provides some details on how their technologies address these types of data flow problems as well, by significantly reducing loses in data signals for servers, routers, motherboards, daughterboards, memory boards (DDR3/4. DIMM), communication networks, switches, and more.

So what does this have to do with Google?

Google has been acquiring a large number of granted and pending patents over the past couple of years including 217 from IBM last December, 66 granted and pending 3G patents from Gold Bridge Technology last November, as well as patents and patent applications from:

There are a few other patent assignments to Google that I haven’t written about either, and hope to sometime in the future with a little more research.

According to Google’s Annual Financial Filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, published this week, Google acquired 79 companies in 2011, though they haven’t disclosed the names of all of those companies. Some of the companies in my list above definitely weren’t amongst those acquisitions, but it’s possible that some were.

Some of the patent filings from the transactions I’ve listed above are likely to find their way into technologies and services provided by Google, while others were likely acquired to help Google build a substantial patent portfolio to help them fend off patent litigation. Some of the patent filings acquired from IBM were likely aimed at helping Google improve the quality of its driverless cars.

Google recorded the assignment of two patent applications last week from Jamal S. Izadian, founder of RFConnext, which introduce and build upon the PMTL technology described in the EE Times article and the DesignCon 2011 whitepaper above. The transaction is reported as having took place on January 18th, 2012.

Scalable Wideband Probes, Fixtures, and Scokets for High Speed IC Testing and Interconnects
Invented by Jamal S. Izadian
US Patent Application 20080265919
Published October 30, 2008
Filed: April 2, 2008

Abstract

We introduce a new Periodic micro coaxial transmission line (PMTL) that is capable of sustaining a TEM propagation mode up to THz band. The PMTL can be manufactured using the current photolithographic processes. This transmission line can be embedded in microscopic layers that allow many new applications. We use the PMTL to develop a wideband highly scalable connector that is then used in a Probe that can be used for connecting to microscopic scale Integrated Circuits with picoseconds High Speed Digital and near THz Analogue performance in various stages of development from R&D to production testing. These probes, in one embodiment, provide a thin pen-like vertical probe tip that matches the die pad pattern precisely that can be as agile as a high speed plotter pen, connecting on the fly to any die pattern on a wafer.

This approach allows the most valuable part of the test, namely the wafer to remain stationary and safe, and the least costly part of the test, namely the probe to take most of the wear and tear. We further use the embedded PMTL to develop a modular, scaleable and fully automated Universal Test Fixture for testing chips in various stages of development mainly for digital IC chips that can be utilized in production lines with pick and place of chips on tape to test every chip before insertion into circuits. One embodiment includes a low profile wideband Signal Launcher and an alligator type RF Clip that can be used at the edge of PCB’s directly for validation broads. The Signal Launcher is used to develop a new versatile Flush Top Test Fixtures for individual device testing in various stages of development from die, to packaged, to Module, to Circuit Boards.

The PMTL can also provide Confined Field Interconnects (CFI) between various elements on semiconductor wafers to reduce parasitic and radiation losses and practically eliminating cross talk, thus, increasing the speed of digital IC’s. The PMTL is also used to develop a Universal Test Socket, and a Hand Probe with performance up to 220 GHz.

Unified Scalable High Speed Interconnects Technologies
Invented by Jamal S. Izadian
US Patent Application 20100307798
Published December 9, 2010
Filed: June 3, 2009

Abstract

Traditional High Speed Electronic Systems Interconnect experience several bandwidth bottlenecks along the multiplicity of signal paths that limits the information throughput. Here we build upon the cellular interconnect concept of PMTL, the Periodic Micro Transmission Line which was introduced in an earlier patent application, and provide a new type of transmission line VMPL, as the Vertical Micro Transmission Line approach to make all the elements of a high speed interconnect wideband, unified, scalable, and practical for high volume manufacturing.

This provides total connectivity improvements from end-to-end of electronic systems that demands higher bandwidth, and increased information throughput, thermal management, and impeccable signal integrity. The technologies introduced here provide solutions for any level of the fan out from chips to systems, in CMOS, or Packages, and PCB’s.

The RFConnext web site is still online, and looks open for business. It’s possible that part of the terms of agreement over the transfer of the patent filings may have included a license for the company to continue to develop this technology. Or Google may have acquired the company. There’s no way to tell from just looking at the USPTO assignment database.

The technology sounds like something that Google can take advantage of in the vast numbers of routers and servers and data centers it’s building. Will this technology play a role in bringing high speed broadband to Kansas City?

Or is the technology something that’s being scrutinized and worked upon in some undisclosed Bay Area location, headed by Sergey Brin?

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24 thoughts on “Is Google Aiming at Building Faster Networks and Data Transmissions?”

  1. Bill,

    If you watch the video at the bottom of that blogspot post you referenced, it certainly seems that way.

    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/ultra-high-speed-broadband-is-coming-to.html

    I am going to go out on a limb here and say, YES, without a doubt that is what they are trying to do.

    And, I have a feeling that they are going to succeed…mainly because of their acquisitions…smart move.

    Whoever is behind this KNOWS what they are doing. That much is pretty obvious.

    Coming soon to a city near you: The Gigabit Network – THE Fulfiller Of All Of Your Media Needs :)

    Mark

  2. Interesting find Bill. Google is increasingly getting its fingers into every level of the IT stack.

    The Jobs biography talks about how he counseled Larry that Google was doing too much and his people were trying to “turn you into Microsoft”. Interesting comment – he was right if you think about it – both companies are extremely similar at this point:

    (Google – Social Media) = (Microsoft – Video Games)

    I believe that conversation contributed to Larry deciding to kill many of those projects you mention.

    His challenge IMO now is, what do you do with all the Ph.D’s you’ve co-opted and placed into a gilded cage, if you aren’t going to allow them to distract you anymore? There is a big risk many will simply leave and start doing things elsewhere, or for themselves; potentially a major HR issue for Google. Of course, this is what people call a “high-quality problem” I suppose!

  3. Yes agree with your thoughts.

    And yes we all looking forward to see Google come up with new invention & development in Internet technology.

  4. I think this is really a great idea of using 20% time of your total working time in a week to some other. I think this is a great way of putting fresh ideas to an old project. I am sure with influx of new ideas the old team will also be pushed to work even harder to work on those new ideas. I think we need to implement this into all the activities of our lives. I have a manufacturing firm and this idea has really appealed me a lot..

  5. Well Bill being a supporter of open standards and technology, I loved the concept behind google labs.I wonder what propelled them to close such a wonderful platform? But if this ‘special projects’ churn out some thing really special,which makes my networks faster and life easier then as a best selling author and owner of a company which was voted as one of the fastest growing by the Inc magazine, I will only appreciate it.

  6. Man…to be a fly on the wall of the Google X labs. It’s nice to see a company that isn’t resting on its laurels but instead is trying to grow and really advance the world as a whole. I love Google.

  7. Fascinating as always. The Google X labs must be an incredible place. It’s interesting to see Google investing in high speed infrastructure, an industry I see as a huge growth area in the next 5-10 years…

  8. It will definitely be interesting to see where all of the acquisitions and patents take Google in the next few years, especially with employees’ 20% projects…

  9. Bill, I couldn’t agree more.

    Although It’s sad that Google Labs has been closed, the development of technology they’re doing at “Google X” sounds ground breaking and like it will be extremely beneficial.

    But I can see how the future will turn out, in years to come I’ll do my shopping at my local Google supermarket and then get my car fixed by the local Google mechanics lol.

  10. Hi Mark,

    It does seem that Google is starting to work upon extending their business model in ways that might have been really hard to envision just a couple of years ago. The signs were there, and Google has been investing in buying fiber for years, but it’s quite a step to move from buying infrastructure on the Web to becoming the ISP for residences and businesses.

    Interestingly, I did see an FCC application (limited) denial to Google for certain aspects of an earth station (reception only) to one of their newest data centers from last month with the name “Google Fiber” on it, in Council Bluffs, IA.

    http://www.fcc.gov/document/google-fiber-inc-dismissal

    Not sure if that means an extension of what Google is doing in Kansas City to other places, or if Google operates under the name Google Fiber when building data centers, and connecting between them.

  11. Hi Ted,

    It does seem like Google is spending a fair amount of time deciding between which programs that it chooses to continue, and is removing some.

    There’s a lot of news the past couple of days about Google getting into building and selling hardware, and opening retail shops. That could potentially be a lot more lucrative than focusing upon offering services like Google Sets and Google Squared. That is, if Google can pull it off.

  12. Hi John,

    The idea that employees can spend some part of their workweek focusing upon projects that they find very interesting is definitely an appealing idea, at least in theory, especially if it yields projects and products that both work well, and can help a company maintain an innovative atmosphere and also remain viable as a business. The risk is when those types of projects don’t pan out, and distract people from the projects they might be working upon. But I do like the idea of giving people a chance to pursue things that can bear fruit.

  13. Hi Daniel,

    The thing I liked most about Google Labs was that it gave people a chance to test and try out services from Google that they were still testing and working upon. I’m not sure that closing Google Labs is harmful in and of itself to open source, but I’m still a little sad to see it go away.

  14. Hi Charles,

    I’d love to be a fly on that wall myself. Some of the peeks at possible things that Google might work on in patent filings is pretty interesting, but not quite the same thing as seeing ideas like those go from concept to actual product or service.

  15. Hi Anthony.

    I’d love to get a tour of Google X. :)

    High speed infrastructure of the kind that Google is working upon could create so many possibilities that could change the ways we do many things. For example, making it possible for doctors to watch surgery from long distances away as it happens in real time, and be able to provide input when needed would be incredible.

  16. Hi Kentaro,

    One of the things that the “more wood behind fewer arrows” message seemed to indicate was that Google is going to be more selective in which projects they pursue, but the Google X project seems to indicate that maybe they are becoming a little more protective of secrecy about some of those projects. From a business standpoint, that seems to make a lot of sense.

  17. There is a lot of functionality waiting to be discovered and I love it that Google keeps pushing despite its dominant position as a tech business. I’m far from glorifying their achievements, but the company does seem to be one of the driving forces behind the growth of the web. Many of their current visionary ideas (we know little about) might be rolled out as soon as transmission standards are raised. We’ve seen much more complex limitations being dealt with so I’m positive it’s just a question of time.

  18. Hi Zach,

    I agree, it does look like Google has been hard at work trying to improve the Web, even outside of things that might make them money, such as participating in developing standards and promoting open source software.

  19. This is why Google is the best out there! They have the best algorithm designers and programmers. They will keep coming with advancements in internet technologies and search. BTW, Bill, I am new to your blog. You will see a lot of me here from now on :D

  20. Hi Raja,

    Thanks. Google does seem to be investing a lot of time and energy in building up its infrastructure, and if they use the technology involved in these patents in their data centers, and elsewhere, it could pay off for them significantly.

    Looking forward to more comments from you.

  21. Thanks Bill for giving this insight.

    This means in the near future Google will be the main source of faster solution provider over the internet irrespective to the bottle necks.

    Also the fact that the experts give 20% of their time on some other project then their own is a very good strategy as it serves both avoiding stagnancy of thought and getting a different view over other projects.

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