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Bluetooth to get a friend

Philips talks up low-cost, low-power wireless

A standard for low-voltage, low-power chips for wireless devices will push the concept of ubiquitous computing from theory to reality in homes, offices and even cars, an executive from Philips said on Monday.

One of the emerging standards in the move toward a wireless world is an approach called 'ZigBee'. ZigBee, formerly known by several other names, including HomeRF Lite, is a wireless technology focused on low-cost, low-power applications that is expected to cost less than £1.50 per module by next year, said Fred M Boekhorst, vice president of Philips Research.

ZigBee will run at speeds ranging from 10Kbps (kilobits per second) up to 115.2Kbps, which at the top end is about twice the speed of a dialup modem, but only a fraction of the speed of Bluetooth, another wireless technology that has drawn a lot of attention in the past few years.

ZigBee will have range of 10m to 75m, further than that of Bluetooth. As for power consumption, ZigBee's wireless modules are expected to last between six months and two years if powered by a pair of AA batteries, Boekhorst said.

ZigBee modules, which will operate over radio frequencies, will feature an integrated antenna, frequency control and a small integrated battery, Boekhorst said.

"This has to be a radio so cheap, so small, that it can be used in anything," he said.

The first products using the ZigBee standard are expected to become available this year, according to the ZigBee Alliance website. Members of the alliance include Philips, Motorola and Ericsson.

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