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Stock traders move into the laser age in pursuit of lightning-fast deals

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Lasers (Flickr CC, Douglas Muth)
Lasers (Flickr CC, Douglas Muth)

If you think gamers are obsessive about minimizing lag times, you should look at the lengths stock traders go to in their pursuit of instant communication. Microwave data transmission already bridges the 700-mile distance between Chicago and New York in a mere 4 milliseconds, but until that number hits zero, new modes of communication continue to be explored. The latest method makes use of lasers and is about to be deployed in March between the data centers of the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq market, both located in New Jersey.

Operated by Anova Technologies, a company already engaged in providing exotic networking equipment of the sort high-speed traders yearn for, the lasers are stationed on rooftops and promise a more resilient and direct transmission method than microwave alternatives already in place. The technology comes from research in the '90s into gathering images from outer space, which has since been adapted to do point-to-point data transfers back on Earth. A flexible mirror system that adjusts "thousands of times a second" weeds out atmospheric distortions, while a stabilizing system that was originally intended to let the lasers be used by planes in flight adds to their weather resilience.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, trading firms have already expressed interest in using the laser system once Anova makes it more widely available, though we'll have to wait and see if it really does shave a few more nanoseconds off that pesky delay between pushing the button and completing the trade.