The July 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Is Keck’s Law Coming to an End?

After decades of exponential growth, fiber-optic capacity may be facing a plateau

14 min read
Is Keck’s Law Coming to an End?
Photo: Sue Tallon

Since 1980, the number of bits per second that can be sent down an optical fiber has increased some 10 millionfold. That’s remarkable even by the standards of late-20th-century electronics. It’s more than the jump in the number of transistors on chips during that same period, as described by Moore’s Law. There ought to be a law here, too. Call it Keck’s Law, in honor of Donald Keck. He’s the coinventor of low-loss optical fiber and has tracked the impressive growth in its capacity. Maybe giving the trend a name of its own will focus attention on one of the world’s most unsung industrial achievements.

Moore’s Law may get all the attention. But it’s the combination of fast electronics and fiber-optic communications that has created “the magic of the network we have today,” according to Pradeep Sindhu, chief technical officer at Juniper Networks. The strongly interacting electron is ideal for speedy switches that can be used in logic and memory. The weakly interacting photon is perfect for carrying signals over long distances. Together they have fomented the technological revolution that continues to shape and define our times.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

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 →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

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

This Startup Is Using AI to Help Keep Store Shelves Stocked

Wisy’s platform eases supply-chain issues by tracking inventory

4 min read
Phone screen with Wisy platform on black background

Store employees take a picture of a product on display using Wisy's platform, and the AI records information based on the photo.

Wisy Platforms

Shoppers are seeing more and more empty shelves, as stores around the world struggle to keep products stocked. The situation is the result of supply-chain issues caused in part by the COVID-19 pandemic. The product-unavailability rate increased from 5 percent to 15 percent during the past three years, according to the Consumer Brands Association.

To make it easier for stores to track inventory, startup Wisy developed an AI platform that uses image recognition to detect which products are out of stock or running low, as well as those that are available but haven’t yet been put on display.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

When Gamers Get Nasty

Researchers grapple with subjectivity as they develop algorithms to detect toxicity in online gaming

2 min read
A man wearing a headset is seen in a dark room playing video games
Getty Images

Online gaming is a chance for players to come together, socialize, and enjoy some friendly competition. Unfortunately, this enjoyable activity can be hindered by abusive language and toxicity, negatively impacting the gaming experience and causing psychological harm. Gendered and racial toxicity, in particular, are all too common in online gaming.

To combat this issue, various groups of researchers have been developing artificial-intelligence models that can detect toxic behavior in real time as people play. One group recently developed a new such model, which is described in a study published 23 May in IEEE Transactions on Games. While the model can detect toxicity with a fair amount of accuracy, its development demonstrates just how challenging it can be to determine what is considered toxic—a subjective matter.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

Improved Dynamic Range for Pulse Detection

Achieving an unprecedented combination of dynamic range and sampling rate for pulse data acquisition

1 min read

Join Teledyne SP Devices for an introduction to our Pulse Detection Range eXtension (PDRX) technology. It achieves a dynamic range equivalent to 16-bit analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) while exceeding the sampling rate supported by commercially available devices. It is ideal for pulse capture in applications such as mass spectrometry. Register now for this free webinar!

Keep Reading ↓Show less