Two major breakthroughs in fiber optic technology and smartphone batteries are set to make high speed internet and thus, digital currency, more accessible to the global population, enabling underdeveloped countries to leapfrog current technologies.

Fiber optic breakthrough

While new technologies like Bitcoin have made the technology of monetary transfer faster and accessible to more peoples worldwide, the basic technology of the Internet has stagnated. Still based on fiber optic cable technology first used to send phone calls in California back in 1977, the limits of this aging technology were thought to have been reached.

This has led some research to show that the Internet uses as its base technology may reach capacity limits within the next decade, as more people on Earth now own smartphones than toothbrushes. Recently, a fiber optic technological breakthrough has allowed a quantum leap in future internet speed and capacity that can fuel the next generation of Internet users

The latest research and development, also originating from California, was done by the Qualcomm Institute at the University of California, San Diego. Up to this point, the barrier has been that once you reach a certain level, additional power distorts the information, essentially capping the maximum distance and speed of transfer.

Publishing their findings in the tech journal Science, researchers have successfully sent information over 12,000 km without the need for electronic regenerators, instead using their newly-developed “frequency combs.”

Corresponding author Nikola Alic from the Qualcomm Institute explains:

"Today's fiber optic systems are a little like quicksand. With fiber optics, after a certain point, the more power you add to the signal, the more distortion you get, in effect preventing a longer reach. Our approach removes this power limit, which in turn extends how far signals can travel in optical fiber without needing a repeater.”

Eduardo Temprana, electrical and computer engineering Ph.D. student and first author of the Science paper (left) and Nikola Alic, researcher scientist from the Qualcomm Institute and principal of the study (right).

These improvements can allow for longer cables without regenerators added that prevent distortion, reducing costs of installation. A more efficient fiber optic cable can increase capacity and reach while lowering prices for companies and users looking for better access in lightly-served areas in the developing world.

Smartphone batteries will last much longer

Smartphone battery tech is also ready to move forward as leading smartphone maker Samsung has cracked the code in phone battery life. Using silicon anode, with layers of graphene on top to improve the density and longevity, battery life is set to almost double.

Testing shows a 50-80% increase in battery strength. A 12-hour battery can soon exceed 20 hours of life while keeping the battery size similar to today. This is important as smartphone manufacturers strive to make their devices thinner and lighter, and extending battery life generally means adding a larger, heavier battery.

These advancements can also be a boon to related uses like EV cars, which can significantly improve range to match those of cars with internal combustion engines. Laptops and other battery-driven devices should also see instant benefits.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely the new battery tech will make it into upcoming products like the Samsung S7 in time. Expect to see the first applications of these Internet and battery enhancements by the end of the decade.