It usually takes a killer (must have) application to rally new technology. What's more, that application has to be relatively cheap. People will only spend so much to satisfy their gee wizz craving.
For years now, we've seen so many wireless standards, chips, and modules from ultra low cost local remote control to high-bandwidth global packet-based networking. Other than cell phones, nothing has caught on in a big way. It is a small few who are wirelessly "wired" into a bidirectional network and are realizing any benefits from their data connectivity.
But the industry is moving in a big way toward more and more wireless connectivity. A couple of recent developments that caught my eye are evidence of this.
Bringing lower cost, good-performing wireless building blocks to the forefront is Conexant, who has just released an IEEE 802.11b-compliant wireless local area network (WLAN) baseband processor with an integrated medium-access controller (MAC). The new CX85410 is the first a new family of components from Conexant, and features a flexible radio interface with automatic gain control (AGC) that supports multiple 2.4 GHz radios.
It also supports multiple antennas in a system by continually monitoring and selecting the antenna with the strongest signal. Data rates are up to 11 Mbits/s, which is standard for IEEE 802.11b modulation schemes.
Helping to lower system costs is on-chip static random access memory that eliminates the need for external memory, and reduces the bill-of-materials cost and board layout space. It also features several host interfaces, including PCI 2.2 and 2.3, MiniPCI, and 32-bit CardBus. There are reference designs for MiniPCI and CardBus.
I like the on-chip support for industry security standards, including the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) 64- and 128-bit standard, Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), and the full IEEE 802.11i standard, which is expected to be ratified next year.
Hoping to make a dent in wireless networking is the fairly low cost of $8.00 in quantities of 10,000. The CX85410 is in production now, and is packaged in a 12 mm × 12 mm 160-pin fine-pitch ball-grid array (FPBGA).