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:
- IBM again,
- Netmask Internet Technologies,
- Mosiad Technologies,
- IBM again,
- Outland Research,
- Northbrook Digital LLC,
- Facet Technology,
- Successes.com, and;
- IBM again
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
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
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?