Wireless USB was supposed to be a game changer. Within three meters, it is technically capable of the same speeds as USB 2.0, and can still manage a respectable 110Mbps at 10m range. Because it works in the UWB spectrum, it doesn’t need line of sight to a receiver and it’s resistant to interference too. Certified Wireless USB allows up to 127 devices to connect directly to the host computer. Unlike wired USB, this is possible without hubs, because there are no wires.
At the heart of Certified Wireless USB is a radio technology new to the consumer space: Ultra-wideband (UWB). UWB is actually not a new technology – it was invented in the 1960s primarily for military use in secure communications and ground-penetrating radars. This high-bandwidth, low-power method of wireless data transmission enables the secure, high-speed connection required for the USB-like user experience. This radio platform, developed by the WiMedia Alliance, was chosen in 2004 to serve as the foundation for wireless USB.
Part of the problem was the delay between announcing standards and the lifting of regulatory restrictions for devices operating in the UWB spectrum (3.1 to 10.6GHz). It took several years between development of the standard and authorisation of its use, and regulatory requirements are still different in different countries. By the time most territories had authorised the airwaves necessary (around 2009), fast 802.11n Wi-Fi was commonly available. Many of the things that Wireless USB was developed for were being done just fine over that. It is still a nice dream, and the technology is still being worked on, but until such time as the line of sight and price issues are solved, you’ll still see probably a lot of head scratching any time you mention its name at a dinner party.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are to some extent complementary in their applications and usage. Wi-Fi is usually access point-centered, with an asymmetrical client-server connection with all traffic routed through the access point, while Bluetooth is usually symmetrical, between two Bluetooth devices. Bluetooth serves well in simple applications where two devices need to connect with minimal configuration like a button press, as in headsets and remote controls, while Wi-Fi suits better in applications where some degree of client configuration is possible and high speeds are required, especially for network access through an access node. However, Bluetooth access points do exist and ad-hoc connections are possible with Wi-Fi though not as simply as with Bluetooth. Wi-Fi Direct was recently developed to add a more Bluetooth-like ad-hoc functionality to Wi-Fi.
Bluetooth Smart (v4.0)
It includes Classic Bluetooth,Bluetooth high speed and Bluetooth low energy protocols. Bluetooth high speed is based on Wi-Fi, and Classic Bluetooth consists of legacy Bluetooth protocols.
Supporters of Bluetooth selected the OFDM-UWB radio platform for future integration with Bluetooth technology. This means that future versions of Bluetooth will use very much the same wireless technology as Certified Wireless USB, with similar high data rate capabilities for multimedia applications such as video streaming. It will certainly be very interesting to see how this plays out, and whether Bluetooth and Certified Wireless USB will be able to co-exist.
Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n)
802.11n (and its predecessors 802.11g/b/a), are without question the standard in wireless networking. Originally developed to address the problem of deploying Local Area Networks (LANs) without cabling, it has truly changed the face of mobile computing and is supported by every major operating system, most gaming consoles, and many mobile devices and mobile phones. In its latest iteration, 802.11n, data rates in excess of 100 Mbps are achievable at a range of up to 30m or greater. Starting a few years ago, due to the lack of any other high-speed wireless protocol, many manufacturers of digital cameras and printers proceeded to install support for 802.11 networking in order to achieve wireless data transfer. Certified Wireless USB would have been a more logical choice, but it was not ready and is still in its infancy.
Wireless HGMI is a colloquial term for wireless high-definition audio and video signals connectivity on consumer electronics products.
There is no official wireless standard that includes the name HDMI, which is a registered trademark of HDMI Licensing LLC.
Currently, most HD wireless transmission technologies utilize unlicensed 5 GHz, 60 GHz or 190 GHz radio frequencies and include
- various proprietary protocols for wireless transmission (LG “Wireless 1080p”, Philips “Wireless HDTV Link”, Sony “Bravia Wireless Link”, Asus “Wireless Display Connectivity”, etc.);
- there are several technologies attempting to become the industry standards like WirelessHD, Wireless Home Digital Interface and the Wireless Gigabit Alliance;
- proprietary video compression schemes that work over 802.11n and similar wireless interfaces.
- Asus WAVI (Wireless Audio Video Interaction) wireless HDMI use 4 x 5 MIMO-channels with Two-Way Wireless USB Control.
Wireless HDTV (aka WiDi) availability is currently an on-going development. In 2010, Toshiba began marketing the first Widi device.
The WiSA (Wireless Speaker and Audio) wireless standard operates in the 5.2 to 5.8GHz bands, with up to 7.1 channels of uncompressed sound. Furthermore, the system can jump between 24 separate wireless channels, to avoid any interference. Range is advertised as 12 meters (about 40 feet).
As TVs have gotten thinner, delivering increasingly better video, their audio quality has not kept pace, for the simple reason that there’s limited space on these ultra-thin displays to fit a high-quality speaker. Consumers who want premium HD audio to complement their HD video must invest in a separate audio system. In addition to the expense of these systems and the complexity of setting them up, there’s the challenge of running all those speaker wires – as many as eight in a 7.1 surround system. Without hiring professional installers, it’s nearly impossible to make these cables “disappear” or blend naturally into the surroundings. Likewise, once the speakers are installed, they need to be calibrated and balanced to the room environment, requiring specialized equipment and expertise that is often beyond the reach of the average consumer. And once the system is installed and configured, it becomes virtually impossible to rearrange it without additional expense.
Bang & Olufsen Introduces New Wireless Speaker Technology– its high-end BeoLab 17 and BeoLab 18 wireless speakers and BeoLab 19 subwoofer, the first commercial products to use the WiSA wireless standard. Not 100% totally wireless as they still require a power cord.
USB Implementers Forum has jumped aboard the WiGig bandwagon and will slide up the dial into 60GHz.
60GHz is where WiGig lives, an internationally unlicensed band where there’s plenty of space but propagation is poor. WiGig is proposed as the next generation of Wi-Fi, offering vastly improved speeds, so the USB Implementers Forum will be porting USB 2 and 3 to run right on top of it.
It’s now more than two years since the Wireless Gigabit Alliance (WGA) released the first full version of its 7Gb/s would-be next-gen Wi-Fi technology. WiGig emerged in 2008, arising out of work done during the first half of the last decade to devise wireless technologies for streaming HD video content from players to screens, many of them based on ultrawideband technology operating in the 60GHz band: the section of the electromagnetic spectrum running from 57.24GHz to 65.88GHz.
At the same time, international standards body the IEEE agreed to use WiGig spec as the basis for its 802.11ad 60GHz networking standard, what will undoubtedly be the next generation of Wi-Fi.
WiGig devices will be able to negotiate a specific beam path and tune their directional antennae accordingly. If someone interrupts the beam – no, 60GHz signals won’t pass easily through people – the devices quickly pick a different path, relying on a nearby wall to reflect the beam around the obstacle.
It’s WiGig’s Protocol Adaption Layers (PALs) that allow it to operate as a wireless replacement for a variety of wires, from USB to DisplayPort and HDMI. Since it’ll carry PCIe traffic too, it could even form the basis for wireless Thunderbolt. Range is not an issue here and neither is bandwidth. WiGig supports device-to-device connections, so there’s no need to router cable-replacement traffic through a base-station.
WiGig can achieve several times the speed of Wi-Fi by using unlicensed 60GHz frequencies within a short range, typically within one room. The new Wireless USB specification will use existing USB 2.0 and 3.0 drivers and APIs, which should make it easy to add to new devices. It could be used for any type of data transfer typically associated with USB, such as backing up content or linking peripherals to a PC. Look for new devices starting in 2014. No clowning this time.