The proliferation of the broadband infrastructure and the associated new business model has made the services such as IPTV and Media on Demand (MOD) possible. In the future, users will demand higher quality multimedia content that can be downloaded through a home broadband connection and transferred onto mobile devices.
Satellite broadcast companies are already using current technology to allow users to download their favorite television programs onto their handheld devices. Amazon.com, the world largest Internet retailer, offers a complete music downloading service, which allows customers to download MP3 through a long term licensing contract. Amazon also offers an MP3 player with 1-2G of memory space free of charge, allowing users to download a limited or unlimited number of songs per month.
In essence, this type of service is much like cable television.
With the continuing features and performance advancement in mobile devices, design engineers constantly face a two-fold problem: on one hand, they face pressures to cut costs and produce smaller devices with lower power consumption; on the other hand, they must offer more functionalities and higher connection speed.
The traditional way of accessing multimedia content for a mobile device is by connecting its USB port to a computer through a higher speed cable or "cradle." The downside to this procedure is that the user cannot connect to the Internet independently without turning on a PC or Notebook computer, and hence must go through a PC intermediary.
Another way of accessing multimedia content is through a build-in Wi-Fi module, where the connectivity can be limited by the surrounding environment such as concrete walls, the distances between the devices, nearby microwave and cordless phone, radio waves, the use of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modules simultaneously, and other forms of interference. The limitation to this procedure is that the current wireless technology such as Wi-Fi cannot achieve broadband connection speeds suitable for multimedia streaming with good enough QoS. The stability of a consistent and reliable wireless connection is also another concern.
Yet another way is to leverage the existing Ethernet network at home or in the office for broadband access. The problem is the build-in PCI or Non-PCI Ethernet module or Ethernet card increase the bulkiness of mobile devices. A possible remedy to preserve compactness is to use a separate cradle or docking station to connect the mobile devices to the network. The downsides to this procedure are the added costs of additional connectors due to the use of parallel bus in PCI or Non-PCI controller, and the signal interference that it generates.
The solution: USB-to-LAN
USB-to-LAN offers a natural solution to each of the downsides described in the present scenarios described above. The idea of so called USB-to-LAN converts a USB 2.0 signal to the Fast Ethernet/Gigabit Ethernet interface through an USB-to-LAN controller used in the cradle or docking station for the mobile devices. Because the USB 2.0 uses a compact four-pin connector, this solution reduces many pins-out connections between the cradle/docking station and the mobile devices.
Another more flexible way is to use an external USB-to-LAN dongle to connect the mobile devices to the network if the microcontroller within the devices has a build-in USB host interface. This will leverage the high-speed and serial bus characteristic of USB2.0, to increase the performance of the devices, and in the meantime, solve the downside of bulkiness described above.
The concept behind USB-to-LAN should be obvious--harnessing USB's "plug-and-play" convenience as well as its 480 Mbps connection speeds, both without compromising portability and connection performance.
Six embedded Ethernet solutions
The so-called Embedded System usually denotes a Non-PC system that includes many of the functions of a computer. The main components of embedded system are a microcontroller, custom hardware, the embedded operating system, and the application software. The applications of an embedded system can range from factory automated industrial control machines to every day mobile devices, such as cell phones, PDAs, PMPs, and MP3 players. The manufacturing, communications, and consumer electronics industries benefit significantly from the embedded systems, allowing the embedded systems to command a greater importance in the market today.
There is a growing need to add network connectivity into every embedded system, particularly with Ethernet or Wi-Fi function. Based on reports by Forrester Research, by the year 2010, up to 95% of the devices used to access the Internet will be non-PC devices that use an embedded system. In other words, the network connectivity of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication will be the primary market demand for the embedded networking system for the years to come.