Japan Makes Digital Home Network Breakthrough

TOKYO (03/29/2000) - A Japanese government research project headed by the Electronic Industries Association of Japan (EIAJ) has succeeded in sending IEEE1394 signals -- the emerging standard for digital home networks -- over a long distance at high speed.

The breakthrough confirms the system's suitability for use as a network around the home and opens up new possibilities for its use beyond the home, the EIAJ said in a statement.

IEEE1394 interfaces are increasingly being built into home electronics equipment like video cameras, televisions and personal computers, sometimes under the Firewire or iLink brand names, although most incorporate electrical interfaces which can only send the 400M bits per second (bps) IEEE1394 datastream over 4.5 meters through metallic cables. While this is adequate for interconnecting a series of devices located close to one another, it is not sufficient for running a network around the typical house.

Adapters offer a way around this problem by converting the electrical signals to light for transmission by plastic optical fiber (POF) over distances up to 50 meters. The distance is judged enough for home network use but this system results in a reduction in the maximum data speed to 200M bps -- sufficient for many applications but not fast enough for full-motion digital video.

The Japanese trials, which were headed by Keio University's Yasuhiro Koike, succeeded in sending data at 400M bps, which is fast enough for digital video, over a distance of 100 meters using a semiconductor laser and graded-index POF and over 50 meters using the combination of a light emitting diode (LED) and multi-layer POF.

The technology is cheap enough to be used in the home, said EIAJ spokesman Tamotsu Harada.

"Our trials used polymethyl methacrylate POF which is cheaper than the perfluorinated POF used in many high-speed systems," he said adding that it should be suitable for home use when commercialized.

The research project was delegated to the EIAJ by the Information Technology Promotion Agency and is part of the Ministry of Internation Trade and Industry's Project for Common Infrastructure Development of Data Systems in the Home. Companies participating in the trial were Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Hitachi Ltd., Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd., Victor Co. of Japan Ltd., Seiko Epson Corp., Kenwood Corp., Infocity Inc., Techno Scope Co. Ltd., Sky Think System Co. Ltd. and ProMedia Inc.

The system will be demonstrated at Keio University's Mita Campus on April 25 when Koike will reveal more information about the technology.

The EIAJ, in Tokyo, can be contacted at +81-3-3213-5861 or online at http://www.eiaj.or.jp/.

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