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Chaos creates nonlinear signal processing IP

SAN DIEGO — Five-year-old Chaos Telecom has developed a set of nonlinear signal processing algorithms that are currently under evaluation by several DSL chip makers, and it hopes to sign licensing deals with them by year's end.

The startup is marketing the algorithms as semiconductor intellectual property to be incorporated into chips to improve the effective signal-to-noise ratio of DSL modems and consequently improve their range, data rate or power requirements.

“About a half-dozen DSL ASIC companies are evaluating our algorithms,” said CEO Larry Fromm. “We hope to get our solution embedded into their silicon. We expect to have licensing revenue starting this year.” Revenue will be tied to the volume of licensees' DSL chip sales.

Chaos Telecom utilizes the technology described by chaos theory as nonlinear dynamics, an area of expertise of two of its founders who are professors at the University of California, San Diego: Henry Abarbanel, a full-time professor with the physics department; and James Lemke, an adjunct professor with the electrical and computer engineering department. Abarbanel is also a researcher at the university's Institute for Nonlinear Science. Chaos Telecom has five mostly part-time workers, and has raised about $3 million to date, primarily from SBV Venture Partners.

Working in conjunction with a major communications ASIC company that Fromm described as a “partner” but would not identify, Chaos has demonstrated the effectiveness of its IP. “We are actively trying to sell it to all the major DSL chip companies,” he said.

Nonlinear dynamics, the behavior studied as chaos theory, is a starting point for Chaos Telecom's IP. Some “noise” on a communications circuit is “complex but utterly deterministic nonlinear artifacts of the original signal” that can cause nonlinear impairments in the communications channel, Fromm said. “These artifacts are so complex that no one, to our knowledge, has even attempted to eliminate them in a complex communication system.”

Chaos' algorithms eliminate complex nonlinear artifacts and thereby improve the effective SNR of a system at very little cost, Fromm said.

Common nonlinear impairments in a communications channel include saturated amplifiers and oxidized junctions. “On impaired ADSL lines, our nonlinear echo canceller improves the effective SNR by 8 dB, which means a data rate improvement of about 374 kilobits per second on an ADSL line,” Fromm said. “Since our solution tends to work best on the poorest performing [i.e., the most impaired and longest] lines, the improvement is often significant, or even the difference between a home being able to receive ADSL service or not.”

The algorithms work with existing or future standards. They are implemented on a single side of the communication channel.

Once Chaos Telecom establishes a revenue stream, Fromm said the company will expand and try to apply its IP to other fields beyond DSL chips. “Increased SNR is coin of the realm. We hope to grow our team and adapt the technology to other markets, such as satellite communications and 10 Gigabit Ethernet.”

The company has already reached out to potential customers in those areas. “Preliminary talks are encouraging,” Fromm said.

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