Close

A View to the Cloud

What really happens when your data is stored on far-off servers in distant data centers

6 min read
Illustration: Francesco Muzzi/Story TK
Illustration: Francesco Muzzi/Story TK

We live in a world that’s awash in information. Way back in 2011, an IBM study estimated that nearly 3 quintillion—that’s a 3 with 18 zeros after it—bytes of data were being generated every single day. We’re well past that mark now, given the doubling in the number of Internet users since 2011, the powerful rise of social media and machine learning, and the explosive growth in mobile computing, streaming services, and Internet of Things devices. Indeed, according to the latest Cisco Global Cloud Index, some 220,000 quintillion bytes—or if you prefer, 220 zettabytes—were generated “by all people, machines, and things” in 2016, on track to reach nearly 850 ZB in 2021.

Much of that data is considered ephemeral, and so it isn’t stored. But even a tiny fraction of a huge number can still be impressively large. When it comes to data, Cisco estimates that 1.8 ZB was stored in 2016, a volume that will quadruple to 7.2 ZB in 2021.

Keep reading... Show less

Stay ahead of the latest trends in technology. Become an IEEE member.

This article is for IEEE members only. Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

A Transistor for Sound Points Toward Whole New Electronics

“Topological” acoustic transistor suggests circuits with dissipationless flow of electricity or light

3 min read
Model of a honeycomb lattice

Model of a honeycomb lattice that serves as the basis for a "transistor" of sound waves—whose design suggests new kinds of transistors of light and electricity, made from so-called topological materials. Electrons in a topological transistor, it is suspected, would flow without any resistance.

Hoffman Lab/Harvard SEAS

Potential future transistors that consume far less energy than current devices may rely on exotic materials called "topological insulators" in which electricity flows across only surfaces and edges, with virtually no dissipation of energy. In research that may help pave the way for such electronic topological transistors, scientists at Harvard have now invented and simulated the first acoustic topological transistors, which operate with sound waves instead of electrons.

Topology is the branch of mathematics that explores the nature of shapes independent of deformation. For instance, an object shaped like a doughnut can be deformed into the shape of a mug, so that the doughnut's hole becomes the hole in the cup's handle. However, the object couldn't lose the hole without changing into a fundamentally different shape.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Taking Cosmology to the Far Side of the Moon

New Chinese program plans to use satellites in lunar orbit to study faint signals from early universe

3 min read
crescent moon
Darwin Fan/Getty Images

A team of Chinese researchers are planning to use the moon as a shield to detect otherwise hard-to-observe low frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum and open up a new window on the universe. The Discovering the Sky at the Longest Wavelengths (DSL) mission aims to seek out faint, low-frequency signals from the early cosmos using an array of 10 satellites in lunar orbit. If it launches in 2025 as planned, it will offer one of the very first glimpses of the universe through a new lens.

Nine “sister” spacecraft will make observations of the sky while passing over the far side of the moon, using our 3,474-kilometer-diameter celestial neighbor to block out human-made and other electromagnetic interference. Data collected in this radio-pristine environment will, according to researchers, be gathered by a larger mother spacecraft and transmitted to Earth when the satellites are on the near side of the moon and in view of ground stations.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Learn How to Use a High-Performance Digitizer

Join Teledyne for a three-part webinar series on high-performance data acquisition basics

1 min read

Webinar: High-Performance Digitizer Basics

Part 3: How to Use a High-Performance Digitizer

Date: Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Time: 10 AM PST | 1 PM EST

Keep Reading ↓ Show less