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Apple researching advanced hybrid fiber optic connectors for iOS devices

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
A pair of patent filings discovered on Thursday reveals Apple may be looking into the deployment of fiber optic systems for iOS devices, as the applications describe an advanced cable and docking system that mates with laser-equipped portable electronic devices.

Optic
Source: USPTO


Published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's concurrently filed patent applications for "Optical connection of devices" and a "Hybrid optical connector" reveal an intricate array of connectors, adapters and devices that are able to transfer both electrical and optical signals through fiber optic cables.

Fiber optic designs are well known for their fast transmission speeds, but up to now the technology has yet to penetrate the consumer market due to manufacturing costs and compatibility, among other hurdles. On the other hand, the tried and true method of conductive electrical transfer is ubiquitous. Apple looks to implement the best of both worlds with its patent, joining the technologies in a compact, highly compatible solution.

At their most basic level, the two filings can be thought of as an advanced take on existing technology, which uses conductive metal pins and wires to transfer data. In conjunction with the usual conductive material, the invention runs two fiber optic cables, thereby creating a connector that can carry both electrical and optical signals simultaneously.

Optic
Male and female connectors.


In addition to the benefits of being backwards compatbile with legacy devices through adapters, the use of electrical cabling can provide power, something fiber optic systems lack. The invention refers to this dual-mode system as being "electro-optical."

To operate, the patent calls for an electronic device to have such an electro-optical connector located at its base, the traditional spot for a dock connector. This connector can have any plurality of optical components with which to transmit and receive data. In one example, the system has two optical channels, one for transmission and one for reception, though a single part can be used for both duties. As noted by the filing, electrical signals are converted both into and out of optical signals on-device.

Optic
Exploded view of one connector embodiment.


Once conversion is complete, the device can send out the optical signal over the transmission fiber channel using a laser or other optical transmitter.

The patent points out that the receiving lens is a parabolic concentrator that collects light to send to a photodiode on the device. This setup allows for larger diameter fibers of around 200 to 500 microns, which in turn provides larger tolerances for alignment. By comparison, the Thunderbolt protocol uses two 62.5-micron fibers.

Optic
Lens array and transmission components.


There are a number of connectors described in the patent language, including components that implement springs to protect and align the optical components embedded within. These units range in design, with some calling for small male tongue inserts that can significant reduce housing size, thus allowing room for additional parts or a smaller device.

An alternative means of transferring data is the docking station, which itself can be used to substantially align the fiber optic cabling correctly with a docked portable. In some embodiments, the part can also serve as an inductive charging station.

Optic
Dock with hybrid connector.


As with most Apple filings, it is unclear if the system will be implemented in future products. However, buried deep within the patent language is a description and accompanying illustration of what appears to be Apple's current Lightning connector, suggesting the invention is laying the groundwork for a successor technology.

Optic


Apple's hybrid optical connector patents were first filed for in 2010, with a continuation in 2012, and credit Jason S. Sloey, Albert J. Golko, Eric S. Jol and Ian Spraggsas as their inventors.
post #2 of 35
For some reason sharks with frikki'n lasers on their heads entered my mind.
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post #3 of 35
You know what incredible, awesome, advanced connector for iOS devices I'd like to see Apple 'research'?

A frikkin' iPhone Dock.
Apple Products: So good that their ‘faulty' products outsell competitor’s faultless ones...
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post #4 of 35

Apple's new secret weapon to defeat Android - the $120 iPod cable.

post #5 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

Apple's new secret weapon to defeat Android - the $120 iPod cable.

Coming soon to the iPod Classic apparently. In all seriousness though, this looks awesome and expensive. But with each great new technology comes a great $49 price tag...
post #6 of 35
Not sure I see the point. I've never thought "OMG I wish my iDevice would sync 10 seconds quicker". Another connector on the iPhone would just bring the trolls out.

I'm surprised at the lightning port really as it does have the same limits as the 30 pin dock connector, just smaller and bidirectional. Why they didn't go for a Magsafe connection with the connections available for the optical thunderbolt setup I'll never know.
post #7 of 35
Originally Posted by Evilution View Post
Why they didn't go for a Magsafe connection with the connections available for the optical thunderbolt setup I'll never know.

 

Because MagSafe becomes meaningless when the device is less than one and a half pounds. The magnets are either too strong to actually cause a safe break or too weak to mean anything at all. I'm sure they tried one.

Originally Posted by Marvin

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Originally Posted by Marvin

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post #8 of 35
Could have just used Thunderbolt connection.
Disappointing that they made an update to USB connection last year but didn't do a faster Thunderbolt connection.
post #9 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evilution View Post

Not sure I see the point. I've never thought "OMG I wish my iDevice would sync 10 seconds quicker".

 

You must not sync the amount of data I do. Never mind ten seconds, how about ten MINUTES? Moving 30-40GB over USB2 is not quick.

 

There are other potential benefits too, like multi-channel and/or multi-format input to and/or output from the device that would be impractical or impossible over an electrical connector with a limited number of pins. iOS devices may or may not yet be fast enough to take advantage of that, but if not I'm sure they soon will be.

post #10 of 35
Originally Posted by Urahara View Post
Could have just used Thunderbolt connection.

 

That's what Lightning is for. And no, they couldn't have just used a Thunderbolt port.


Disappointing that they made an update to USB connection last year but didn't do a faster Thunderbolt connection.

 

Say, wouldn't it be great if new users wouldn't do this idiotic false concern crap at all, much less when they know absolutely nothing about what they're talking about?

Originally Posted by Marvin

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Originally Posted by Marvin

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post #11 of 35
This could make the MagSafe connector the only cable one plugs in to "dock" a Mac notebook assuming the optical was Thunderbolt.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Evilution View Post

Why they didn't go for a Magsafe connection with the connections available for the optical thunderbolt setup I'll never know.

I don't think I understand your comment. You wanted optical, Thunderbolt, and MagSafe to been included on last year's iDevices instead of Lightning.

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post #12 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Urahara View Post

Could have just used Thunderbolt connection.
Disappointing that they made an update to USB connection last year but didn't do a faster Thunderbolt connection.

What would be the benefit of doing that when the internal NAND is likely to do 25MB/s? Bragging rights?

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #13 of 35
USB 3.0 SS would be a welcome addition. The current USB 2.0 connector is a joke, and it's still hard to believe Apple introduced it with USB 3.0 already available. Now for USB 3.0 speeds there will need to be another connector change that obsoletes all the Lightning peripherals.

This is just another example of Thin being prioritized over functionality. Thin is the ONLY benefit of Lightning. Transferring gigabytes of files over it is still like pouring molasses in the dead of winter.
post #14 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Junkyard Dawg View Post

USB 3.0 SS would be a welcome addition. The current USB 2.0 connector is a joke, and it's still hard to believe Apple introduced it with USB 3.0 already available. Now for USB 3.0 speeds there will need to be another connector change that obsoletes all the Lightning peripherals.

This is just another example of Thin being prioritized over functionality. Thin is the ONLY benefit of Lightning. Transferring gigabytes of files over it is still like pouring molasses in the dead of winter.

If Apple moved to a standard USB connector it would destroyed the peripherals market. Lightning, like the 30-pin connector allows for a great deal more options than simply sticking a micro-USB port in the bottom.

The only bad thing about lightning is that it wasn't released sooner.

PS: What does USB 3.0 offer the iPhone that USB 2.0 doesn't?

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #15 of 35
Originally Posted by Junkyard Dawg View Post
The current USB 2.0 connector is a joke, and it's still hard to believe Apple introduced it with USB 3.0 already available.

 

But they didn't. They introduced a Lightning connector. You can't yet tell us what that implies.


Now for USB 3.0 speeds there will need to be another connector change that obsoletes all the Lightning peripherals.

 

Yeah, that's absolutely incorrect.


Thin is the ONLY benefit of Lightning.

 

Getting your BLATANT LIES responded to, even if they're wholly debunked, is the only benefit of trolling.


Please leave.

Originally Posted by Marvin

The only thing more insecure than Android’s OS is its userbase.
Reply

Originally Posted by Marvin

The only thing more insecure than Android’s OS is its userbase.
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post #16 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evilution View Post

Not sure I see the point. I've never thought "OMG I wish my iDevice would sync 10 seconds quicker". Another connector on the iPhone would just bring the trolls out.

I'm surprised at the lightning port really as it does have the same limits as the 30 pin dock connector, just smaller and bidirectional. Why they didn't go for a Magsafe connection with the connections available for the optical thunderbolt setup I'll never know.

 

Yeah, try a 64gb/128gb device sometime. I am with you 100% about the magsafe thing though. I think the lightning connector was a shockingly bad evolution of the iphone dock connector.

post #17 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by v5v View Post

 

You must not sync the amount of data I do. Never mind ten seconds, how about ten MINUTES? Moving 30-40GB over USB2 is not quick.

 

There are other potential benefits too, like multi-channel and/or multi-format input to and/or output from the device that would be impractical or impossible over an electrical connector with a limited number of pins. iOS devices may or may not yet be fast enough to take advantage of that, but if not I'm sure they soon will be.


You just have the wrong iPod.  Mine has Firewire.

post #18 of 35
THIS has to make you wonder -- I mean Apple JUST released the Lightning connector... Got to wonder why they did not just standardize on Thunderbolt instead!?
post #19 of 35
Originally Posted by libertyforall View Post
THIS has to make you wonder -- I mean Apple JUST released the Lightning connector... Got to wonder why they did not just standardize on Thunderbolt instead!?

 

No, it doesn't have to make anyone wonder. Not if they're paying the merest hint of attention in the first place.

 

There's a reason they didn't out Thunderbolt ports on iDevices. You'll eventually figure out why.

Originally Posted by Marvin

The only thing more insecure than Android’s OS is its userbase.
Reply

Originally Posted by Marvin

The only thing more insecure than Android’s OS is its userbase.
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post #20 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Say, wouldn't it be great if new users wouldn't do this idiotic false concern crap at all, much less when they know absolutely nothing about what they're talking about?

 

At the risk of sounding pedantic (and sticking my nose where it doesn't belong), I don't think that's what you guys like to call a "false concern troll." He said he's disappointed, not that he's afraid it's going to hurt Apple. He was honest.

post #21 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

You just have the wrong iPod.  Mine has Firewire.

 

Damn, and I just threw away my Firewire AC adaptor. I could have given it to you!

 

I figured one could still use it for just charging an iPhone or USB-only iPod even if it couldn't carry data, but no.

post #22 of 35
How the hell do Apple expect to get this patent?! I mean the specific lightning connector diagram fair enough but the rest is such a generic concept and design. Intel and others must have so much prior art with regard to this. I wish Apple would stop getting silly patents just for courts to invalidate them later.
post #23 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

What would be the benefit of doing that when the internal NAND is likely to do 25MB/s? Bragging rights?

 

So how is it that an SSD will deliver files so fast I get them before I ask for them, but the storage on an iPhone can't even manage USB2 speeds? Aren't both using NAND?

post #24 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by v5v View Post

So how is it that an SSD will deliver files so fast I get them before I ask for them, but the storage on an iPhone can't even manage USB2 speeds? Aren't both using NAND?

Do you know how RAIDed HDDs work? Do you know how, say, RAID 0 works? That RAID offers no redundancy but does offer speed improvement by writing/reading to/from multiple disks. To put it in simple terms that's what the SSD controller does. It controls the data being written and read across multiple NAND chips, thus increasing the relative performance.

There is no SSD controller in the iPhone. It's just the NAND right on the board, and I think it's just the one chip.
Edited by SolipsismX - 4/11/13 at 5:12pm

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #25 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by v5v View Post

 

So how is it that an SSD will deliver files so fast I get them before I ask for them, but the storage on an iPhone can't even manage USB2 speeds? Aren't both using NAND?

 

Digging up a post I made back in February (I started designing with Flash memory back in the early 1990s) ....

 

Apple uses the least expensive type of NAND.   Which makes sense.  Smartphone or tablet storage hardly requires enterprise grade speed or robustness, and users do not read/write data that often.  

 

(Which is why the Apple chips' limit of around 5,000 erase-write cycles is plenty... and now you also know why Safari doesn't save its cache to disk (last I looked).  It only uses available RAM, which is why the info in a tab often has to be re-downloaded.)

 

The type of flash memory used in the iPhone could have anywhere from about 20 to 60 MB / sec max read speed per die.  There are file speed tests out on the 'net.  

 

SSDs, on the other hand often have:

 

  • better memory that's been tested with faster (and/or more) write cycles.
  • multiple memory chips for faster parallel access.
  • better flash controller chips with delayed writes, fancy wear leveling, etc.
  • RAM buffers so that slow writes can take place later.

 

Supposedly Apple recently started using a custom flash controller related to their acquisition of an Israeli engineering group.   This controller can theoretically do 600MB/s reads... if the device had enough parallel memory chips, that is.   AFAIK, there's no such setup in an iOS device yet.

 


Edited by KDarling - 4/11/13 at 4:34pm
post #26 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Urahara View Post

Could have just used Thunderbolt connection.
Disappointing that they made an update to USB connection last year but didn't do a faster Thunderbolt connection.

Intel just announced a 20 megabit thunderbolt upgrade Last week with the introduction of a new control processor.  It will be available this fall.

 

http://www.engadget.com/2013/04/08/intel-announces-next-gen-thunderbolt-20-gbps-throughput/

 

Specifically it will be able to handle 4k video streams.


Edited by Mechanic - 4/11/13 at 5:17pm
post #27 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Do you know how RAIDed HDDs work? [snip]

 

Gotcha. Thanks!

post #28 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by KDarling View Post

 

Digging up a post I made back in February (I started designing with Flash memory back in the early 1990s) ....

 

[Useful and interesting info snipped]

 

Cool beans. Interesting stuff about cache writes. Thanks!

post #29 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by KDarling View Post

This controller can theoretically do 600MB/s reads... if the device had enough parallel memory chips, that is.   AFAIK, there's no such setup in an iOS device yet.

There is cost, power and size issues to deal with for a regular SSD design but I can see many paths for Apple creating a specialized controller that would best be described as a Flash/SSD-hydrid for iDevices.

I hope something is done soon because like HDDs in PCs these NAND chips are performance bottlenecks.

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #30 of 35
For the record, I invented a hybrid optical/inductive coupling system - in 1991, and I published it through a document proposing a universal storage media standard. Being I am now a company director, for legal reasons, I cannot say more, other than the fact, I look forward to challenging Apple's patent on the grounds of prior art.
post #31 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mechanic View Post

Intel just announced a 20 megabit thunderbolt upgrade Last week with the introduction of a new control processor.

That would be 20 gigabit, just like your link says.
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post #32 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


There is cost, power and size issues to deal with for a regular SSD design but I can see many paths for Apple creating a specialized controller that would best be described as a Flash/SSD-hydrid for iDevices.

 

As you probably know, larger storage NAND Flash chips are internally made up of multiple stacked smaller memory die. 

 

For example, a 64GB chip might have four 16GB die inside it. 

 

Apple could eventually combine their purchased Flash controller technology and some RAM into a chip package along with internal parallel access to multiple memory slices, and end up with some very SSD-like performance increases.

 

The likely downside would be greatly increased power usage, which is probably what's holding them back.

 

I tell ya, I can't wait for someone to make a real battery breakthrough.  It would open up all sorts of possibilities.

post #33 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by KDarling View Post

Apple could eventually combine their purchased Flash controller technology and some RAM into a chip package along with internal parallel access to multiple memory slices, and end up with some very SSD-like performance increases.

Good point. Is there any evidence that there's just one controller in the iPhone/iPad? I can't find it at Ars, AT, Wiki et cetera...
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post #34 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by KDarling View Post

As you probably know, larger storage NAND Flash chips are internally made up of multiple stacked smaller memory die. 

For example, a 64GB chip might have four 16GB die inside it. 

Apple could eventually combine their purchased Flash controller technology and some RAM into a chip package along with internal parallel access to multiple memory slices, and end up with some very SSD-like performance increases.

The likely downside would be greatly increased power usage, which is probably what's holding them back.

I tell ya, I can't wait for someone to make a real battery breakthrough.  It would open up all sorts of possibilities.

That's what I'm hoping thinking. Apple could build a PoP-like design that is essentially an SSD card built into a single unified chip. This would be more costly than simply having, say, 64GB NAND but the benefits of smaller 4x16GB, with a requisite controller and RAM cache would likely be easily folded into the device. Considering Apple's efficiency along the entire part of the chain the benefits would appear to outweigh the cons by a considerably margin.

This then opens up Lightning to be able to read/write much faster than it currently does over USB.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Good point. Is there any evidence that there's just one controller in the iPhone/iPad? I can't find it at Ars, AT, Wiki et cetera...

The naked single NAND chip on the board and reported speeds prove the simplicity of the setup.

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #35 of 35
Too bad this discussion is over. An optical signal out of an iPod or iPhone is clearly needed for Apple's dual-channel (left/right) laser-projection stereo video glasses. They could end up using two 4K video streams, though I always thought it would be 2K per channel.

If anybody cares, I'll look up their ancient patent filings for these glasses.
Edited by Flaneur - 4/13/13 at 9:56am
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