Panasonic is developing a demonstration handheld device that will use digital audio broadcasting (DAB) to send data and avoid the waiting times of WAP phones.
The demonstrator is based around a chip that uses two DAB demodulators so that the data can download in the background while the user listens to the digital radio. The aim is to encourage service providers to offer data services as well as music, and Panasonic will license the whole design if necessary.
The chip also brings the power down by a factor of three, vital for the portable application, as well as reducing the bill of materials for a portable digital radio down to $50 or $60, says Tony King-Smith, director of Panasonic System LSI Design Europe (PSDE), the division developing the demonstrator. A simple DAB radio consists of the chip, RF tuner and stereo D/A converter.
The cost could be further reduced if the DAB function were integrated into a PDA or a smart phone, he says. Panasonic is also planning to put the tuner and demodulator chip into a PCMCIA card for laptop computers, and is looking at the smaller CompactFlash format for the Visor handspring PDA.
Depending on the memory in the device, the whole of a WAP database (up to around 2Mbyte) could be downloaded in the background to the device with updates also broadcast over the 2Mbit/s channel, says King-Smith.
The user would then pull up the data from the local database, either through a simple screen on a PDA or even through a voice-based menu system on a phone. The reduction in power comes from a system architecture that puts high-speed elements into hardware.
The chip is a mixture of hardwired functions such as the digital demodulation, deinterleaver, FFT engine and Viterbi decoder, while functions such as the MPEG decoding, time synchronisation and frequency control are handled by two DSP engines.
It also brings 3Mbit of embedded DRAM on-chip together with analogue functions such as the 3.3 to 2.5V regulator and an 8bit A/D converter to reduce system power consumption. It operates at a relatively low 24MHz in 0.25µm.