All About Wireless USB

17 Comments

Today at the Wireless USB Conference in San Jose California, Wireless USB 1.0 which is based on the WiMedia MAC Convergence Architecture was approved.

“As the developer of the ultra wideband technical specifications, the WiMedia Alliance will work together with the USB-IF to advance the industry toward rapid consumer adoption of the Wireless USB technology,” Kursat Kimyacioglu, vice president of the WiMedia Alliance told The NewsFactor.

At the conference, Alereon showed off a prototype that could transmit data at 480 megabits per second. I chatted with the company CEO Eric Broockman, and got the lowdown from him. I also learnt the man maintains a weblog, Life Without Wires.

Here are excerpts from that little chat….

OM: Eric, can you bring us up to speed on what is Ultra wideband? It gets a tad confusing, because UWB is used in context of many different applications.
Eric Broockman: It is easy to get confused. In short, UWB is any radio transmission that is 500 megahertz wide. Just like you have many flavors of broadcast radio – AM, FM and Satellite, you have many different forms of UWB.

UWB uses the 3.1 GHz to 10.6 GHz part of the wireless spectrum. FCC has so far approved 3.1 to 4.7 GHz for UWB in three swathes of 528 MHz. Right now US is the only country where UWB is legal but we are hopeful that by end of the year few more large economies will come online as well.

wireless landscape

OM: As a consumer, why should I really care? What does wireless USB do for me?
EB: Well it’s about convenience really. Consumers can connect cameras to printers without worrying about cables. There are many such applications.

OM: I have heard that is going to be used a way to stream video inside the home, and connecting say DVD players with flat screen televisions?
EB: We don’t think that really is the killer application for wireless USB. Its more of a cable replacement technology, and that’s a big enough market. I think for streaming video, the industry will gravitate towards 802.11n.

OM: When can we expect to see the products actually come to market?
EB: We expect production chips in the third quarter, and by early Christmas you can expect some products to come to market. It would be safe to say that 2006 is going to be breakthrough year for wireless USB.

wusb marketforecast

OM: Any more details you can offer?
EB: I think the initial products will come in the dongle/adapter form factors, but very quickly they will go under the hood.

Slides, courtesy Alereon

17 Comments

MikeK

The are 2 real advantages to WUSB/UWB. First, is one of power efficiency. Try transfering an entire 5G disk of music via Bluetooth (make sure to set it to run overnight). Try putting 802.11 in a camera and transferring a large number of pictures…after you download the photos you have to plug in the camera anyway to recharge the battery. WUSB is both high speed, and low power, in fact, the most efficient wireless technolgy when it comes top power per bit tranferred. As long as memory prices continue down and file sizes increase you need more speed.

The second issue is ease of use. Face it, average consumers aren’t real happy about setting up IP addresses and dealing with network issues. WUSB will work on the same profiles that already exist for USB. Take your camera out of the box, turn it on, your computer or plasma TV says “your camera is in the room, do you want to do something?”. Works will all current consumer devices and PC devices.

480Mbps (which should realize an effective rate of over 300Mbps), small battery usage and the same ease of use as USB. That’s why people are excited.

ROb

iThink that there are too many options. Too many that are capable of similar capabilities. This article made reference to the possibility of using WUSB to connect to a printer without cables. Big deal! I am doing that now using a 802.11G capable All-in-One printer/scanner from Epson that also features an option to connect via Bluetooth. 802.11n is just around the corner, so what can WUSB really offer? 480Mb/s transfer rate? Unlikely in real world applications and bluetooth already has massive market and third-party support. Bluetooth and a high speed 802.11G network is more than sufficient for cable-free connectivety needs.

Eric Broockman

Thougt i would provide some responses and clarifications:

REPLY to #5 > The Wireless USB Industry Forum has focused a great deal on security. As was discussed at the first Wireless USB Developers Conference yesterday and today in San Jose, wireless usb uses AES encryption. Further, the association model is not a casual “default to openâ€? like WiFi. Like any technology, there are likely ways to hack wireless USB, but there are many mechanisms in place to minimize this issue. Nobody wants to come home with a new digital camera and inadvertently be printing pictures of your girlfriend on the printer in your neighbor’s apartment or visa versa. This then leads to the question of what is called “associate modelsâ€?. That is a whole new thread.

For those interested in mild techno speak, unlike WiFi, UWB has some inherent “anti-hackingâ€? protection built into the way the radio works. First of all, the propagation distance is limited. Second, UWB operates at very low signal to noise ratios. As a result, the distance at which you can effective use it is not much different than the distance at which you can hear it. So, if you can use it at 10m, you pretty much can’t hear it past 13m. This helps self limit the range at which UWB and therefore Wireless USB can be attacked.

REPLY to #7 > The Bluetooth SIG announced a few weeks ago that their technology roadmap was going to use UWB technology for higher speeds. They were not specific however as to which form of UWB, not the frequency band they plan to use. Given the broad support of the WiMedia Alliance by major players and the composition of the Bluetooth SIG board, it is reasonable to anticipate that they will strongly consider the WiMedia Alliance solution, but ultimately it is their choice.

REPLY to #9 > The WiMedia Alliance UWB standard has extensive support for QoS and mechanisms for streaming media. The WiMedia Alliance common radio platform in fact is designed to provide equal access to wireless 1394, wireless USB, TCP/IP with UPNP as well as Bluetooth. Further, it is the intent of Wireless USB to support the streaming media profile of USB, though this isn’t 100% complete at this time.

So, you will indeed see some companies use UWB and probably wireless USB doing streaming media for connections of DVD players to screens. I believe this will be a modest portion of the market however. My personal opinion however is that long range video will be transmitted using 802.11-n or power line networking, and that in room will be a mix between UWB and 802.11-n.

Om Malik

Gregory

apparently there are some start-ups which are attempting to do video-over-wusb using their own properitary chips but even they are thinking about connecting monitors to pcs to begin with. i think the QoS of HDvideo means that it will be a while before the video signals can be sent over wusb

T. Gregory

Don’t understand: how is UWB a “cable-replacement technology”, but not for connecting, say, DVD players to screens. Does this mean emphatically no streaming media?

Om Malik

They have lowered the power requirements enough that the dongles will work. so no batteries required for wireless usb purposes.

michael,

he did point out that the two technologies, bluetooth and wusb will co exist. for instance bluetooth can do audio, while wusb cannot do that among a couple of other things

Ari

What about power? Will all our wireless USB devices need batteries?

Om Malik

I do agree, the hacking aspect of it is quite troubling. i don’t know the details myself because i have not had a chance to read the spec in details. the pdf is linked but will put this one on the back burner to be honest.

docwho76

A few comments. First off, how do they expect to sell 6 million UWB units when we are nearly halfway into Y2005? Have they looked at the rampup numbers for Bluetooth?

Wireless USB sounds great but I have to wonder whats going to happen when the hackers get a hold of the devices. Remember when WEP was cracked and shown flawed? Now imagine a similar scenario for WUSB. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

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