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FireWire Groups Converge

The various groups working on the interconnect technology commonly known as FireWire are joining forces to help speed up adoption.

The Dallas-based 1394 Trade Association said it will merge with the 1394Automation Group (its European counterpart) by the end of the year. The combined effort is expected to continue work on standards development, as well as marketing and application development.

A very fast external bus standard, IEEE 1934 supports data transfer rates of up to 400Mbps (in 1394a) and 800Mbps (in 1394b). Products supporting the 1394 standard fall under different names depending on the company. Apple Computer , which originally developed the technology, uses the trademarked name FireWire. Other companies use other names, such as i.Link by Sony and Lynx, to describe their 1394 products.

"Joining forces in one structure establishes one global standard for industrial automation applications and allows the two groups to work as closely as possible to advance 1394 in a new generation of systems used for product development, manufacturing, and distribution," Gerwin Gewkes of Maxon Motor, a spokesman for the 1394Automation Group, said in a statement. "We have made significant progress in the industrial market and are pleased to be combining our growing resources."

FireWire is capable of transferring over long connection distances, peer-to-peer architecture, robust connectivity and low latency.

For example, a single 1394 port can be used to connect up to 63 external devices. In addition to its high speed, 1394 also supports isochronous data -- delivering data at a guaranteed rate. This makes it ideal for devices that need to transfer high levels of data in real-time, such as video devices, robotics, motion control and other industrial automation systems. The standard has also been designed into products such as wafer inspection systems and high dynamic lathes, in addition to robots and cameras for industrial inspection.

In addition to being extremely fast and flexible, 1394 is also expensive. Like USB , 1394 supports both plug-and-play and hot plugging, and also provides power to peripheral devices.

But by merging the two groups, James Snider, executive director of the 1394 Trade Association, said he hopes to change that by fostering, "a strong presence in the use of FireWire in highly innovative systems for the factory floor and production."

Founded in 2002, the 1394Automation group is comprised of European companies, including Basler Vision Technologies, Maxon Motor, Nyquist, Lust and TNO.

The 1394 Trade Association is now in its 10th year and includes more than 80 members from companies, such as Intel, Sony, JVC and Compaq.