Finding commercially attractive applications for CERN’s ATLAS Gigabit Links Aggregator

Wintersemester 2012 / 2013 

Executive Summary


The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) was founded in 1954 and is one of the world’s largest research laboratories. The organization is dedicated to research in fundamental physics, with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) being the most famous experiment at CERN.

The objective of this project was to find new application fields for the Gigabit Data Aggregator, a data processing chip (FPGA) originally invented at CERN for the use within the LHC. A student team was assigned to systematically search for and evaluate potential applications for the Gigabit Data Aggregator technology and to develop actionable commercialization strategies.

Initial Situation

The Gigabit Data Aggregator is an invention allowing the processing of vast amount of heterogeneous data at high speed with full integrity. It is recently in development at CERN in order to cope with the requirements of constantly processing vast amounts of data at the LHC in general & especially within the ATLAS project.

Besides using technology for its scientific experiments, CERN has the intention to transfer in-house knowledge to the general public; in the year 2000, CERN has introduced an active Technology Transfer policy, aiming to maximize the technological and knowledge return to CERN member states and to promote CERN’s image as a centre of excellence for technology development.

In order to make the Data Aggregator valuable for the general public, new application areas for this technology are needed, in particular at- tractive ways of implementing this new technology in existing markets. Furthermore, CERN aims at finding alternative application areas for the Gigabit Data Aggregator in order to find potential development partners to share costs of development, manpower & technological know-how.

Project goal

The aim of the project was to find new and attractive application areas for the Gigabit Data Aggregator, to evaluate these opportunities and to develop a commercialization strategy for the most promising ones. Thereby, the potential application areas should not only offer solutions to specific problems in these areas, but also be in accordance with the strategic orientation and background of CERN as the project partner.


The project was based on a community-based search process for technological competence leveraging. This process consists of four interrelated steps.

  • Identification of the benefits delivered by the technology

  • Systematic search for additional/diverse application areas via a combination of pyramiding and broadcasting

  • Analysis of the commercial potential of identified applications

  • Development of an actionable commercialization strategy for the most promising applications


By interviewing 18 current and potential users of the Gigabit Data Aggregator, four main benefits (from the user’s perspective) of the technology were revealed: (1) capability to process vast amount of data at high speed, (2) possibility to individually tailor the algorithms (customizability), (3) capability to process heterogeneous data at 3 different stages:

1. Decoding, 2. Processing and Filtering, 3. Repackaging and (4) guaran- tee of full data integrity, meaning that no data gets loss in the process.

Based on these abstract ‘use benefits’ about 60 potential fields of application were identified in the course of app. 85 qualitative interviews. The suggestions ranged from the use of the Gigabit Data Aggregator in DNA Sequencing to Astrophysics. In accordance with the project partner, the three commercially and strategically most promising application fields were selected for further analysis:

  • (1) Financial Market Data Mining
    Research showed that there are four major players in the market with a combined market share of more than 80%. All the identified trends in this industry confirmed that demand will considerably increase in the next five to ten years – based on the best scenario, a quantity of approximately 155 units can be sold in five years whereas in ten years already 855 aggregators will be demanded, reflecting the extremely high market growth.

  • (2) Public Video Surveillance
    Current statistics show that the global CCTV market will reach $19 billion in 2013. Considering that 28% of the cameras are network cameras, in which the FGPA chip could be integrated, approximately 1.4 million units could be sold in 2013. The growth of the market is considered to rise significantly over the following years (25.31% for network cameras), also due to higher public security awareness.

  • (3) Algorithmic Trading
    Currently, FPGA technology is not that widely spread in algorithmic trading because of the novelty of the technology in this field and traders are quite cautious using it. However, FPGAs have the opportunities to outperform CPU software systems due to superior speed. What is more, high frequency trade volume is expected to continue to grow in the next years so speed and capacity will be of substantial importance. 

Cooperation Partner

  • European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) Genève 23
    CERN CH-1211

  • Ansprechpartner
    Philippe Farthouat (CERN) T +41 (0)22 767 6221
    Heinz Pernegger (CERN) T + 41 (0)22 767 5847

Student Team

  • Viktor Aigner
    Daniel Haas
    Elizabeth Huzar
    Paul Kapeller
    Berid Lackner
    Nikola Martinovic
    Daniel Mikl
    Vanessa Pinter
    Alex Zuber