CAIRO: It’s a small company with big plans. They work out of a small Heliopolis office but are partnered with one of the world’s premier technology giants. This is Silicon Vision, and they’re well on their way in transforming the way data is streamed in the IT world.
The company is only two years old, but it has refined a technology that, once available only to big business and high-end users, is poised to take the consumer market by storm.
Silicon Vision is a subsidiary of California-based Ensphere Solutions and, together with Intel, its innovative technology may soon find its way to the phones you use and the televisions you watch.
Back in 2006 and 2007, Ensphere was looking for a team to serve as its design arm. After searching markets in India and China and finding nothing suitable to them, they came across a few Egyptians working in the Gulf who were eager to return home and start a business.
The partnership – and Silicon Vision – was born.
For years, high rates of data transfer, up around 10 gigabytes per second, has been the luxury of big corporations and heavy duty computing equipment. The hardware needed, including wiring, was too physically big and expensive for smalltime consumer use.
Intel, though, wanted its everyday consumers to have access to this kind of speed, so they asked Ensphere if they could put together a chip small and cheap enough that it could offer the technology to the masses as part of its Light Peak technology.
“This is the first time trying to attract the consumer market with optical transceivers, said Hessam Mohajeri, the co-founder and CEO of Ensphere.
An optical transceiver, of course, was the piece of technology that had stymied scientists. It was the key to making data transfer small and affordable.
“They need a transceiver for transferring light, said Mohajeri, explaining an intensely complex technology in simple terms.
Tarek Elesseily is the general manager of Silicon Vision. He said that the Ensphere team asked the Egyptians to pioneer the design process.
Between the streamline business development team in the US and the research and development side in Egypt, executives hoped that they had put together a recipe for success. And with so much of the work being done in Egypt, Ensphere reasoned, costs would be lower.
After putting together the basic technological design, Elesseily and the designers at Silicon Vision sent the design to California, where Ensphere further refined the idea.
Eventually, the template was sent to Asia to be manufactured.
“Hessam [Mohajeri] is making. revolutionary products, said Ahmad Gomaa, who runs Ideavelopers, which operates as a subsidiary and venture capital arm of EFG-Hermes. “And the Egyptian team is having an opportunity to work on this for the first time.
Ideavelopers invested $4 million in Ensphere in August of this year. Much of the investment, the executives said, would go towards covering the window of work between the time of design and manufacturing and when Intel pays for the end product.
To Gomaa, it meant a lot for an Egyptian team to be at the forefront of this groundbreaking technology they claim will soon be in households around the world.
“Everybody’s going to move to this, said Gomaa.
Production of these new high-speed data transfer systems will begin in January.
Already, Sony has signed onto the technology and will take its first shipment of Light Peak, which include the Egyptian designed transceivers, next year.
A leading laptop manufacturer, that executives refused to name, citing confidentiality, is also onboard and will be announced in January.
The executives at Silicon Vision and Ensphere were eager to discuss the practical applications for the new technology.
As televisions get bigger and demand higher resolution, Mohajeri said, giving one example, higher rates of data transfer will be necessary to keep up.
Gomaa discussed the clunky cords used to connect projectors to computers. In the future, he said, a simple USB cable should do the trick.
But the 10GB per second capacity of the current consumer-friendly technology is just the beginning for these innovators.
They’re committed to increasing the transfer rate up to 100GB per second over the next 10 years.
And the Ensphere/Silicon Vision partnership has a share in the rights of the technology, meaning that it will benefit from its innovations for years to come.
In order to facilitate future efforts to further increase the speed of data transfer, Silicon Vision in Cairo is working to develop a laboratory to help it with design. In this way, the Egyptian side of the business will become more self-sufficient, and the design process will be more streamlined.
And, thanks in large part to Ensphere, with partners like Intel and Sony, growth might be exactly what Silicon Vision will be faced with in the months and years to come.