The UWB design win was the first for Pulse-Link, a pioneer of the technology. The breakthrough came when partner Analog Devices Inc. lowered the cost of its associated JPEG 2000 compression chip from about $30 to about $8 with a new design, making the solution affordable for a high-end HDTV.
For its part, Philips is working with UWB startup Radiospire, testing its unique variant for possible use in a range of products that could debut as early as September. "We are looking for a universal solution" that could connect TVs, DVD players and other products, said a Philips executive at CES.
Radiospire's AirHook technology uses a relatively wide, 1.7-GHz swath of spectrum to deliver up to 1.6 Gbits/s, enough to carry some forms of uncompressed video--including 1080 progressive--up to 15 feet with 100-microsecond latencies, the startup claims.
Sony demonstrated at CES its own internally developed variant of UWB, called TransferJet, and said it will design the technology into its 2009 products. TransferJet creates an experience similar to near-field communications in which a camcorder, for example, might be set on top of an HDTV to establish a connection. It uses a direct-sequence spread-spectrum modulation technique in the 4.5-GHz range to deliver 560 Mbits/s at the physical layer over a distance of about 1.25 inches.
"Rather than racing to offer a faster data rate at a longer distance, we asked ourselves, 'What if we kept the wireless distance very short?' " said Ko Togashi, deputy general manager of Sony's network software development group.
The end result is an intuitive user experience that delivers relatively fast data transfer at low power with less signal interference than some versions of UWB--"and fewer UWB regulatory worries," Togashi said.
Sony has been working on its UWB-based TransferJet system since 2005, according to Togashi. The company did not propose its technology to standards groups, largely because the industry forums showed scant interest in the idea of wirelessly transferring data over a very short distance.
Although TransferJet's first live, public performance did not go smoothly, a technology demonstration after Sony's CES press conference appeared to go well. Sony has developed TransferJet chips that are small enough to be embedded into a dongle, said Togashi. The biggest challenge for the company lies in finding partners that will commit to the wireless technology.
Sony believes TransferJet could co-exist with near-field communications technology. "While NFC can take care of payments, TransferJet can download content," Togashi said.
Sony may have other surprises up its sleeve. At CES, it also demonstrated a proprietary version of Wi-Fi from startup Amimon for carrying uncompressed high-def video within a room, and it showed internal work on directional antennas to send video over 802.11g around a home. Sony is also a member of an ad hoc 60-GHz radio group, along with Panasonic, Toshiba and others.
"We have not decided which technology to use," a Sony product planner said at the company's CES booth.
LG Electronics has decided to keep things simple, making its latest plasma HDTV products "wireless ready" for 802.11, presumably building in antennas and an upgrade slot of some sort.
"If someone decides in the future to go wireless, we will enable that for them," said Allan Jason, a marketing vice president in LG's consumer group. "We're very bullish on wireless going forward."
Woo Paik, LG's chief technology officer, said Wi-Fi is just a first step. The company is keeping its options open as to which wireless technology it will use, and it's a member of the 60-GHz group.
Sharp Electronics has kept relatively mum on wireless, at least for U.S. products. The company said it will use powerline networking as one option for Internet-connected models of its Aquos HDTVs. But it has not offered an updated status report on wireless since its demonstration of UWB about two years ago in the States and more recently in Japan.
"We're not ruling out wireless. It's a good solution for within the room," said Bob Scaglione, a vice president for Sharp's U.S. subsidiary.
While UWB is gaining plenty of attention for the digital living room, high-definition cameras and other portable de- vices using the link will not be welcome clients in cars or on aircraft.
"It would be a nightmare and could take years to get UWB built into cars, because UWB has massive EMC [electromagnetic compatibility] problems in the car," William Mattingly, a vice president for automotive electronics at Chrysler LLC, said during a CES panel.
UWB is banned from use in aircraft, as is Bluetooth, said another panelist, calling for the industry to rally around wireless technology, such as 802.11, that can be more readily used in the home as well as on the road and in planes.