Nanotech: Cable's Next Big Thing?

New York -- Where are the opportunities for integrating nanotechnologies with
the cable industry?

Over the next one to three years, hard-drive storage in digital set-top
boxes, fiber optics and high-definition televisions looms as the likely avenue,
according to panelists at the NanoBusiness Alliance's inaugural conference held
here Tuesday.

Nanotech, which is beginning to draw attention from some quarters of cable's
tech community, involves the harnessing of atoms and molecules to launch a
variety of applications, impacting industries from biotechnology to construction
materials, on a scale of nanometers.

Most of the nanotech buzz is currently concentrated on biotech-driven
medicine, chemicals and computing.

But officials of the NanoBusiness Alliance -- which was founded last fall as
a clearinghouse and catalyst for the trade -- said several nanotech start-ups
are targeting cable.

Their aim: to increase the processing power of set-tops, cable modems, video
servers and perhaps bandwidth so that operators can deliver more of the new
services -- interactive TV, video-on-demand, home networking -- they're rolling
out to consumers.

Hard drives placed in digital set-tops to allow personal-video-recording
services, such as TiVo Inc.'s products, represent a big nanotech option for
cable, said Charles Gerlach, communications-sector principal at IBM's Institute
for Business Value.

New nanotech-crafted chip sets and associated materials could allow storage
capacity of thousands, rather than hundreds, of programming hours in set-tops,
he noted. That could make hard drives more attractive to both set-top vendors
and cable operators.

Lux Capital managing partner Josh Wolfe doesn't see that coming to pass
near-term, at least through a budding nanotech entrepreneur.

Broadcom Corp. and other chip makers are dominating set-top powers, he said,
and unless they come into play or link up with start-ups, he doesn't foresee
developments there.

Yet Wolfe -- whose company played a major investment role in the alliance's
formation -- believes a nanotech cable niche could arise from advancements in
fiber optics, offering bandwidth expansion or enhancement possibilities and
flat-panel HDTV displays.

Earlier, Kurzwell Technologies CEO Ray Kurzwell, whose The Age of
Spiritual Machines
became a national nonfiction best seller, predicted that
by 2010, nanotech will contribute to 'ubiquitous high-bandwidth connections to
the Internet at all times.' Virtual reality will exist in a number of media
environments, he added.

At the conference, the alliance announced the formation of an angel investor
network, based here, which hopes to generate seed funds for nascent nanotech

The network will also develop funding partnerships with corporations, venture
capital and service institutions.