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The authors present a novel coherent-to amplified spontaneous emission (ASE) converter based on SOA's cross-gain modulation (XGM) in a counterpropagating configuration. Experimental characterizations of the ASE converter with bit-error rate (BER) measurements at 2.5 and 5 Gb/s are shown. The device capabilities are exploited in a delay lines optical recognizer at 2.5 Gb/s. Recognition is based on a coherent-to-incoherent light conversion followed by a fiber array correlation filter. Experimental evidence here reported shows performance improvement in comparison with a scheme which adopts a standard telecom source.