At CES 2006 this week in Las Vegas, ultrawideband (UWB) technology is making its mark, with demonstrations by a number of different companies showcasing a wide range of product concepts that make use of the technology. Earlier this week, both Alereon and Pulse~LINK made a series of announcements regarding their plans for the show.
Alereon announced the release of a number of new WiMedia and Wireless USB development tools, including the AL4401-EVB and AL4402-EVB WiMedia Ultrawideband Physical Layer (PHY) Evaluation Boards, the AL4501-RDK CardBus-based WiMedia and WUSB Host Adapter Reference Design, and the AL4001-EVK WiMedia PHY Evaluation Kit.
Jim Robillard, Alereon’s Director of Product Marketing, says the company is demonstrating a number of product concepts at CES, the majority of which are based on the AL4001-EVK. “It contains a WiMedia PHY and a USB host adapter – so this allows you to connect two PC platforms with an ultrawideband connection and use that to send various types of data back and forth between the PCs,” he says.
Applications to be demonstrated, Robillard says, include video streaming, as well as a number of different sync applications, such as syncing a digital camera or an iPod with a PC. “Those are representative of the two kinds of target markets for ultrawideband that people most often describe: video as one area, and then the Wireless USB type of peripheral connectivity,” he says.
Focused on the PHY
Also this week, Alereon announced a partnership with Korea’s Samyoung Electronics to develop ultra-compact modules based on Alereon’s UWB products. The first module in the series is based on the WiMedia PHY 1.0 specification, and uses Alereon’s AL4100 RF Transceiver and AL4200 BaseBand Processor. The module is designed for cell phones, MP3 players, personal video players and WUSB hubs.
Alereon’s key strength in the growing UWB marketplace, Robillard says, is the fact that it’s the one company currently demonstrating a WiMedia PHY chipset that operates at 480 Mbps. “In the case of a company who’s looking for a PHY solution, this is a unique product right now,” he says. “We expect the industry to catch up at some point, but right now, we are the only company demonstrating that.”
Robillard says the fact that Alereon is specifically focused on the PHY is also key. “If, as we believe, we have the strongest product offering for a PHY-only product, then to the extent that there’s a market for that, we’re really well placed to service the majority of it,” he says. “We believe that there are going to be a couple of large established silicon companies who will be offering MACs and who will need PHYs – that’s going to be a good market for us to service.”
The company’s CogniPHY technology, Robillard says, is another strength, particularly for international markets. “It gives the product vendor some tools to help work in the various regulatory domains that we think will be appearing in the 2006 timeframe,” he says. “Different geographies are going to have different types of UWB regulation – we’ve provided some unique tools to work around these various regulations.”
A UWB Guessing Game
Pulse~LINK’s demonstrations at CES include real-time high definition gaming using the company’s CWave UWB technology with an Xbox 360, CWave UWB transmission between a laptop PC and a plasma TV, high definition transmission over CWave UWB between a Direct TV digital video recorder and a flat panel display, and demonstrations of CWave UWB over coax and over electrical wiring.
According to Bruce Watkins, Pulse~LINK’s President and COO, the Xbox 360 demo includes connections to two different flat panel HDTV monitors – one using the standard wired connection that ships with the gaming console, and the other connected wirelessly. “We don’t tell you which monitor’s wireless and which one’s wired,” he says. “We leave it to folks to guess – because you can’t tell the difference.”
Similarly, Watkins says, the laptop-to-TV connection demonstrates real-time connectivity that turns a 50-inch flat panel plasma TV into a wireless monitor for a laptop. “You can work with Word documents, Excel spreadsheets – anything you could do on a PC, there it is in real time, low latency, on a 50-inch plasma monitor,” he says.
Watkins says the aim of those demonstrations, along with the coax and electrical wire demos, is to show that CWave can support all kinds of connectivity in the home. “It’s the exact same CWave radio that goes wireless, over coax and over electrical wire – so it’s a whole home connectivity platform,” he says.
If all goes well, Watkins says, he expects to see products available with CWave technology before the end of the year. “We’re not ready to say with who or for what, but I know it right down to the SKU numbers of the product lines,” he says. “We could be showing up in things at the tail end of Q3 ’06 – I tend to tell my shareholders to expect it in Q2 ’07, but we’re in conversations that could have it end up in ’06.”