C O R P O R A T E T E C H N O L O G Y | C o m m u n i c a t i o n s Te c h n o l o g y
Engineering milestones range from the pointer tele- graph (below) and the first digital telephone switching system (left, photo strip) to the world record for data transfer via mobile radio (ad- jacent) and tomorrow’s “am- bient intelligence” (right).
COMMUNICATIONS COME OF AGE
The pointer telegraph, our company’s foundation stone, was invented by Werner von Siemens in 1847. Communications have come a long way since then. Today, the focus is on the convergence of fixed-line networks, mobile communications, Internet and TV — and once again Siemens is leading the way.
I n the near future, driving to a new customer for the first time will be easier than ever. You’ll plug your personal digital assistant (PDA) into the car, call up the cus- tomer’s name and off you’ll go. The PDA will automatically trans- fer the customer’s address to the navigation system, which will guide you to your destination. “Ini- tial tests are already being con- ducted,“ says Michael Berger of Siemens Corporate Technology (CT), a specialist in Ambient Intelli- gence (Aml). “The tests make ex- tensive use of our research into the autonomous behavior of de- vices.” The objective of Aml re- search is to achieve wireless net- working of sensors, radio modules
and computer systems, and to en- dow these with the ability to com- municate and sufficient intelli- gence to adapt to the user’s needs according to the situation. “And we’re talking about all environ- ments — from the factory and the office to the car and the home,” says Berger. Looking a few years ahead, he adds: “In addition to recognizing the user’s context, these intelligent systems will need to act autonomously and with foresight.” There are several rea- sons why such visions are becom- ing increasingly realistic. These in- clude wireless connection systems such as Bluetooth and WLAN, the miniaturization of high-perform- ance components like sensors,
and above all new software that’s not only self-configuring but also self-organizing.
Werner von Siemens, the com- pany’s founder, was also eager to satisfy customers’ needs. In 1847 he invented the pointer telegraph, which provided a pointer that even a lay person could easily set to transmit letters of the alphabet without having to use Morse code. “Ridiculously simple” he called his invention in a letter to his brother Wilhelm. But British patent documents indicate how systematically he had researched the suitability of different materi- als for the electrical contacts in the small laboratory at Siemens & Halske in Berlin. He preferred in-
novations that required little capi- tal but involved clever ideas. How- ever, communications research in the first Siemens Corporate labo- ratory, which was established in 1905, and indeed until the post- war years, focused much less on short-term products. Back then communications engineering was still in its infancy, and ground- breaking inventions still had to be developed.
One of the pioneers in that era was Hans Ferdinand Mayer, who was appointed head of the Siemens Laboratory for Long Dis- tance Telephony in 1924 and later became director of the Corporate Laboratory in 1936. That’s where he developed many innovations,
including the “Echo Suppressor with Electron Relay,” which elimi- nated interfering echoes in long- distance connections. Carrier frequency technology for under- sea cables, another of his revolu- tionary inventions, enabled him to multiplex communications through land lines and undersea cables and thus double the num- ber of simultaneous calls. In other words, Siemens research in that period was focused on perfecting high-quality voice transmission for a large number of subscribers. By the time Mayer passed the baton to his successor in 1962, he had already begun to miniaturize com- ponents and to emphasize the im- portance of information theory to communications engineering. Ap- plication-oriented research domi-
nated the ensuing years well into the early 1970s. “Companies would virtually snatch inventions from scientists’ hands, because products were so simple to imple- ment,” recalls Karl-Ulrich Stein, for- mer director of the Public Net- works Corporate Laboratory.
A revolutionary advance for data transmission occurred when analog technology was replaced by digital and pulse methods. Siemens introduced the Hicom private communications system in 1984. It met the worldwide ISDN standard and was the first system to integrate all forms of communi- cation in a single network, on a single line, and for a single sub- scriber number.
CO R P O R AT E
Significant developments from Siemens laboratories resulted in another bestseller: The digital electronic switching system EWSD, which replaced analog switching in 1980. “EWSD was a break- through in digitization, hardware and software architecture. It ad- vanced all developments that shaped communications engi- neering in the late 20th century,” says Stein. “EWSD was not only number one in the world market for years; it was also a key to suc- cess in addressing the mobile communications infrastructure.”
Research also kept setting new world records in bit rates — whether in transmissions through optical fibers or by means of opti- mized modulation and encoding algorithms in UMTS. Siemens has
ment on larger networks is spent on software,” says Hartmut Raffler, who heads Information & Com- munications at Corporate Technol- ogy. “Ten to 15 years ago, it was the other way round,” he recalls.
One example of the rapid progress in software is the soft- switch, a software-based network component for next-generation networks that acts as an intelli- gent switch in routing network- wide signals. A key factor in this area is the media-independent Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). SIP makes it possible to integrate all existing communications net- works (land lines, the Internet and mobile communications). As a re- sult, future users will be reachable anytime, anywhere, on any net- work, and with any type of equip-
played a key role in advancing UMTS, the third mobile communi- cations generation. In 2001, Sie- mens transferred over seven tera- bits per second through a 50-kilo- meter glass fiber — the equivalent of 100 million simultaneous tele- phone conversations. And in 2004, a Siemens laboratory in Mu- nich achieved another first by transferring one gigabit per sec- ond through a mobile communi- cations connection — that’s about 2,500 times more data than can normally be transferred via UMTS.
Powerful new software has played a decisive role in many communications developments. “Up to 80 percent of today’s in- vestment in research and develop-
ment. “Today, our research is in- creasingly focused on ease of use,” says Raffler. For example, future users won’t have to care at all about mystifying network termi- nology like WLAN, Ethernet, DSL, UMTS, HSDPA and WIMAX. The new applications for notebooks and mobile phones will automati- cally select the fastest and most economical connection. And if one connection fails, another will replace it. Although systems will become more complex and func- tionality more dependent on soft- ware, the process will remain just as “ridiculously simple” — from a user’s point of view — as in the p o i n t e r t e l e g r a p h o f 1 8 4 7 . ■ N i k o l a W o h l l a i b
NOBEL PRIZE LABORATORY
Gustav Hertz (1887 – 1975), nephew of Heinrich Hertz, the dis- coverer of electromagnetic waves, shared the 1925 Nobel Prize for physics with James Franck for their work concerning interactions during the collision of electrons with gas molecules. From 1935 until 1945 he headed the Siemens Research Laboratory II in Berlin, which had been established especially for him. He made important contributions to basic physics research topics, such as the generation of microwaves, and electroacoustics.
COMMUNICATIONS PIONEER Hans Ferdinand Mayer (1895
1980) was a pioneer in elec-
tronic communications engineer- ing. He conducted research into interference-free data transmis- sion in long-distance connections and multiplexing in land lines and undersea cables. From 1935 on, he participated in the devel- opment of the first broadband television cable. During the Nazi years he was arrested and imprisoned. In 1946 he went to the U.S., taught as a professor of communications technology for four years and wrote a standard textbook about pulse code mod- ulation. From 1950 until 1962, Mayer headed the Communica- tions Engineering Research De- partment at Siemens. Under his direction, significant progress was made in the areas of infor- mation theory and component miniaturization.
Pictures of the Future | Fall 2005