Finalist for European Inventor 2010 in the "SME" category
Spanish inventor Jorge Blasco and his company Diseño de Sistemas en Silicio (DS2) developed Powerline Communications (PLC), an innovative technology that lets people connect to the internet via standard electrical outlets.
Inventor: Jorge Blasco, José Luis Gonzalez, Francisco Andres, Antonio Pairet and Antonio Poveda, Spain
Invention: overvoltage protection circuit; method for multiple access and data transmission
Company: Diseño Sistemas Silicio SA
Connecting to the internet via wireless networks is currently regarded as state of the art. In 2010, about 64 per cent of users in Europe are accessing the internet through a wireless connection.
But looking into the future: What if standard electric power lines could be used to transmit data? And people could access the internet anywhere in their homes by plugging their appliances into standard wall sockets?
This vision has become a reality thanks to Spanish inventor Jorge Blasco. Educated at the School of Telecommunications in Madrid, the young inventor was working at the European Union offices in Brussels in the 1990s when he had an idea: how about using standard 110 and 220 volt electric cables to transfer data over power lines, coaxial cables and telephone wires?
After all, the electrical infrastructure was already in place, so set-up would be minimal. Following his vision, the telecommunications engineer drummed up 300 000 euros from friends and family, and in 1998 launched DS2, headquartered near Valencia, Spain.
With a team of ten, Blasco developed a set of integrated circuits that would form the basis of high-speed communications equipment, such as modems, that plug directly into a wall socket.
Others started to share Blasco's vision: Spanish energy giant Endesa bought into DS2 in 2000 and Japanese trading concern Itochu in 2003. Extra support came from the municipality of Valencia and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology.
DS2's first major success came in 2004 with mass production of Powerline Communication Integrated Circuits. They are capable of delivering data rates of up to 200 megabytes per second (Mbps).
DS2 is now the world's primary supplier of high-speed semiconductor solutions for power line communications. Companies offering internet connection via DS2 200 Mbps chip modems are Telefónica, BT, Telecom Portugal, Telecom Italia and Belgacom in Europe, plus Edison and American Electric Power in the US.
The future looks bright. Countries with extensive power networks - but problems with internet infrastructure - could go online with DS2 technology. In total, 70 per cent of the company's revenue already comes from exports, with customers including AEG, Samsung, Sony, NetGear, D-Link and Thomson.
Company revenue improved steadily over the years, from EUR 5 million in 2003 to EUR 12 million in 2007. In 2009, DS2 employed more than 130 people at its Spanish headquarters and has offices in Santa Clara and Tokyo. Jorge Blasco directs DS2 as President and CEO.