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Wireless USB 1.1 impresses in Amsterdam

Energy efficient tech offers high performance

Some exciting advancements in the Wireless USB 1.1 specification were revealed at the USB Developers Conference in Amsterdam yesterday. The wire-free approach for connecting devices and peripherals is backwards compatible with wired USB, allows first time association of devices and is now being put into practice in consumer products.

The advantages of Wireless USB 1.1 extend beyond enabling a clutter-free home as the technology will offer lower power consumption, lower cost and improved performance of up to 1Gbps. Wireless USB uses UltraWideBand (UWB) technology enabling data to be transmitted at up to 480Mbbp at a range of 3 metres, which matches the data rate of USB 2.0.

A selection of products using the technology were on show at the event. These included Lenovo's T61p laptop and Belkin's Wireless USB hub, both of which are already on sale in the US. Preston Hunt, technical marketing manager at Intel, said that he expects Wireless USB products to arrive in Europe in around 6 months.

Jeff Ravencraft, president and chairman of USB Implementers Forum and chairman of the Wireless USB Promoter Group, said Wireless USB will deliver files easily, reliably, securely, and when and where you want. He forecasts a big market opportunity for the new technology, predicting that by 2011 the number of mobile phones featuring Wireless USB will reach 500,000. He has also noted that industry support is growing, with companies such as Intel, Nokia, Lenovo and Microsoft building products.

“The Wireless USB 1.1 Specification builds on the key features - speed, ease of use, and security - that have made the 1.0 specification so successful,” said Ravencraft.

Zach Little, program manager for Wireless USB and UWB at Microsoft, predicted that the technology will develop so quickly that by 2010 it will support compressed and lightly compressed video and also be integrated into TVs.

When asked if Wireless USB 1.1 could replace existing technologies such as Bluetooth, Ravencraft said that while Bluetooth has its uses in headsets and wireless mice, Wireless USB 1.1 offers a huge boost in speed. He said the newer technology offers up to 500 times faster transfer rates.

Wireless USB 1.1 works by enabling the host device to communicate with other peripherals such as cameras, mobile phones and laptops. It support Near Proximity technology, meaning users connect devices to their PCs by bringing them within close range. This is a one-off procedure and from then on the devices are securely connected and files can be sent directly between them with no need for cables. As it is necessary for the devices to be within 10cm of each other it also reduces the likelihood of interference from the middleman and increases security fears. This method also gives the consumer greater reassurance that transfers between the devices are secure.

Up to 127 devices can be, if necessary, connected to one host at once using Wireless USB.

All devices supporting Wireless USB technology will display a sticker with the USB-IF Certified Wireless USB logo on. This will make it easy for consumers to see that they have purchased a trustworthy device.

“The majority of people use USB and we are aiming our branding at the consumer directly. They will be conditioned to look for the brand on products,” said Ravencraft.

The Wireless USB 1.1 Specification will be finalised in the first of 2008. Products that have undergone and passed certification testing have the opportunity to license and use the Certified Wireless USB logo.


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