Wireless USB Devices Coming This Year

SAN FRANCISCO — Amid the Itaniums, Xeons and Core 2 Quads here at the Intel Developer Forum, perhaps the sleeper hit will turn out to be a USB initiative.

The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) announced it is now ready to certify devices for compliance for the Wireless USB specification, which allows for USB data transfers without the rat’s nest of wires found on so many computers.

In a way, it’s similar to Bluetooth, which hasn’t really found much use beyond wireless cell phone earpieces.

The problem, said Jeff Ravencraft, chairman and president of the USB-IF and technology strategist at Intel , is that Bluetooth only offers 1Mbps data transfer rates, while USB 2.0 can reach 480Mbps.

That makes Bluetooth less than desirable to transfer large amounts of data.

“Bluetooth is not battery-efficient. USB is 10 times more efficient than Wi-Fi and 50 to 70 times more efficient than Bluetooth for transferring data,” he said.

All that’s needed, for now, is a USB dongle with a receiver to receive the data. A device like a digital camera can then send pictures immediately from the camera to the computer with the USB dongle designed to receive data.

For this to happen, though, digital cameras, MP3 players, computers, printers and other devices sending or receiving data must first establish a relationship before one device can send and one can receive, said Ravencraft.

For now, dongles are needed for a device to send and/or receive the data. The dongles are not much larger than the Flash drives that have become so widely used. All they contain is Flash memory and a transmitter/receiver to send and receive data.

Eventually, said Ravencraft, computer makers will implement USB-IF transmissions on the computer motherboard. He expects digital cameras and cell phones with wireless USB will begin to reach the market by Christmas of this year, with computers following next year.

Information on the Wireless USB program, including how to get a product certified, can be found on the USB-IF site.

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