RealTime IT News

Wireless USB's Coming Out Party

This week at the Certified Wireless USB Developers Conference in San Jose, California, a flurry of announcements and demonstrations heralded the arrival of Certified Wireless USB as a market-ready technology. Two key factors in that readiness include availability of silicon and interoperability between vendors.

During the keynote on Wednesday, the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) offered the first five-way, multi-vendor interoperable demonstration of Certified Wireless USB. A laptop with an Intel host adapter using an Alereon PHY was used to transfer high definition video from a Philips wireless semiconductor solution with a Realtek PHY, all using Microsoft Windows XP drivers developed for Wireless USB.

Jeff Ravencraft, president and chairman of the USB-IF, said at the time that the demonstration proved Wireless USB is ready for market. “Interoperability among MACs and PHYs is critical for a robust supply chain, and gives manufacturers maximum flexibility,” he said. “Today’s keynote shows the industry that Certified Wireless USB is here.”

The USB-IF also announced the completion of the next-generation Certified Wireless USB Peripheral Development Kit (PDK), which offers new features, greater availability and a significant cost reduction from the previous model. The new PDK will be made available online to members of the Forum beginning in July.

Drivers and silicon

At the conference, fabless semiconductor company WiQuest Communications announced the availability of Windows XP drivers for its wireless USB PCI Express mini card and Adapter products. The company says this gives customers access to the first seamless, end-to-end solution based on Certified Wireless USB, allowing equipment manufacturers to build the technology into their products quickly. “You will see the first notebook PCs with this technology coming on the market later this year,” said company founder, president and CEO Dr. Matthew B. Shoemake.

Alereon demonstrated its Wireless USB silicon, the AL4000 Wireless USB two-chip set, designed for mobile devices like cell phones, digital cameras and MP3 players. “Developing certified Wireless USB solutions for small mobile and portable devices is challenging, but this is clearly the largest and most compelling market segment,” said company CEO and founder Eric Broockman.

The company also announced production availability of the chipset, samples of which are now available at a price of $9.86 in 10k quantities. “We’re coming to market with the best technology available to replace the complex tangle of cables that interconnect today’s consumer electronics, peripherals and mobile devices,” Broockman said.

New testing functionality

Staccato Communications made a series of announcements and demonstrations at the conference. Among the half dozen companies demonstrating use of Staccato’s single-chip CMOS solution was test equipment provider LeCroy, which said its UWBTracer analysis system now supports multiple Certified Wireless USB Association and Security models. “With comprehensive security support, the UWBTracer is ready for the next wave of MAC layer testing for Certified Wireless USB,” said Mike Micheletti, Product Manager at LeCroy’s Protocol Solutions Group.

Test equipment supplier Ellisys publicized new features for its Wireless USB Explorer 300, the company’s WiMedia-based protocol analyzer. It includes InstantTiming, which provides a graphical representation of Wireless USB packet timing. The aim is to help developers identify issues more quickly, saving time and improving product quality.

Ellisys also announced the launch of its byte-level frame generator, the UWB Generator 320, which allows developers to verify reliability by generating reproducible traffic, timing and error scenarios. The processor’s instruction set helps developers emulate Wireless USB hosts and devices, as well as various WiMedia-based devices.