This week, we're pleased to present a guest commentary on the future of UWB, by Eric Broockman, CEO Alereon, Inc, commenting on and extending the recent news about this technology and its future:
As one of the founding members of the WiMedia Alliance, Alereon is pleased with the announcement that the WiMedia Alliance is transferring its ultrawideband (UWB) specification(s) to the Bluetooth SIG and to the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) [Editor's note: for an EETimes report, see "WiMedia folds, UWB spec goes to Bluetooth, USB groups"].
Over the last six years, the WiMedia Alliance has had many successes. WiMedia created an internationally recognized, UN-sanctioned, ISO standard through ECMA. Further, the USA, the EU countries, Japan, China and Korea have recognized and authorized UWB spectrum. Finally, initial products have begun to ship that support Wireless USB.
So what does the WiMedia specification transfer mean to you, the engineering community? It means that the same standards groups you count on today to develop specifications that ship billions of chips a year are taking charge of UWB's future--namely the USB Industry Forum and the Bluetooth SIG. They will drive the next generation of high-speed wireless solutions which will show up in tomorrow's products.
Today, there are a number of companies who are delivering certified Wireless USB silicon including Alereon, CSR, Samsung, Staccato, Wionics Research and Wisar. Major PC OEMs such as Toshiba, Dell and Lenovo are shipping early products. For the future, the WiMedia Alliance has transferred the existing technology and three next-generation specifications. One completed specification extends speeds to over 1 Gbps for applications such as streaming video. Another lowers both speed and power for mobile applications such as cell phones. The third extends UWB to work over coax in the 2.112-to-3.6 GHz band for home networks.
Why does this fit in the USB"IF and the Bluetooth SIG? Fundamentally, because UWB will succeed. Why? Physics, software compatibility, consumers and free spectrum. UWB is far more power-efficient than WiFi due to simple physics. If you want to move lots of data wirelessly over short distances with the minimum battery drain, then UWB is 10X more battery efficient than WiFi.
Further, UWB has a far higher spatial capacity (Mbps/meter2); which is well-suited for dense "cube farm" or cubicle office deployments. Additionally, there is the issue of spectrum. There are many gigahertz of free, unlicensed UWB spectrum available around the world and UWB takes advantage of this.
Finally, there is applications compatibility. Today there are over 2 billion products sold every year that have a USB port. Users are yearning for a wireless version of USB, much like what 802.11 did for 10/100 Ethernet but on a much grander scale. Now add the over 500 million phones sold every year with Bluetooth which need a higher-speed, more power-efficient wireless technology to move the ever-increasing file sizes of digital content.
In 2009, you will see more UWB products enter the market. These products will include wireless HDTV, wireless docking stations, wireless hard drives and wireless digital cameras, all from major consumer products companies. These products will begin to change the perception of the value of UWB.
Behind this specification transfer is the need by both the USB I/F and the Bluetooth SIG to control the future direction of this essential part of their own specification to support their constituents applications. UWB supports their customer needs due to physics, software compatibility and the availability of free spectrum. Alereon, along with others, continues to work hard at making the future of Life Without Wires™ a reality.♦
About the author
Eric Broockman is the founder and CEO of Alereon, Inc. (Austin, TX), with more than 23 years of leadership in the fabless semiconductor and communication IC industries, with experience in managing product development, customer and strategic marketing, branding, marketing communications and public relations.
He previously held significant management positions at Legerity, Alchemy Semiconductor, and Cirrus Logic, and also worked at IBM for 17 years. Broockman has expertise in both bipolar and NMOS technologies, holds eight U.S. patents and was a National Science Foundation graduate fellow. He graduated from the University of Florida with B.S. and M.S. degrees in engineering.