San Jose, Calif. -- Startup Amimon Ltd. will demonstrate a prototype of its wireless high-definition interface for HDTV video at the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show using technology based on a variation of 802.11n that can deliver up to 1.5 Gbits/second.
The company believes its approach will give designers a lower-cost, more-reliable alternative for delivering high-definition video wirelessly within a room, typically between a video source and a flat-panel display.
Amimon competes with a handful of companies pursuing similar applications using ultrawideband, 60-GHz radios and other twists on 802.11. Who will win remains unclear, given that Amimon and its competitors have hurdles to vault before they hand OEMs working chips ready for high-volume production and tested across a range of conditions. But the startup has a well-thought-out technology.
"This is a great piece of work, and the concept is sound," said Craig Mathias, a principal consultant with Farpoint Group (Ashland Mass.). "What they are doing is not so much in the radio as in the information theory domain."
The technique, he said, involves "using uncompressed video but coding the errors into the lowest significant bits so you don't see [them]. I see it as a form of steganography," the science of hidden messages.
Amimon describes its approach as joint source-channel coding. The technique arranges video bits according to their importance. Using so-called unequal error protection, Amimon's chip set encodes the most significant bits of the important video components better than the least significant bits of the less important components.
Amimon claims its approach requires less computation and memory than traditional video coding, while providing a superior result. In traditional coding, the company claims, the most significant bits of the important video components are not protected enough, while the least significant bits of the less important video components are protected too much.But whether Amimon can get working chips out before its many rivals at competitive cost, size and power consumption levels remains to be seen.
Amimon expects to have separate transmitter and receiver baseband chips available "in a couple of months" and companion RF chips "a little while after that," said Noam Geri, vice president of marketing and business development. The full four-piece chip set should be ready for production before the end of 2007.
As much as 80 percent of the Amimon approach is based on core 802.11n technologies--a 5-GHz radio with OFDM modulation and a 4 x 5 MIMO antenna arrangement. Thus, although the chips will carry a 50 to 100 percent premium over 802.11n chip sets initially, within two or three years costs could drop to the level of mainstream Wi-Fi chip sets, Geri said.
A pair of baseband and RF chips will consume less than 5 watts initially and probably cost less than $50, he estimated.
Using a 20-MHz channel, the technology can deliver 1.5 Gbits/s, enough for HDTV resolution up to 1,080 interlaced. In markets such as the United States that permit channel bonding to create a 40-MHz channel, it can deliver 3 Gbits/s for HDTV resolution of 1,080 progressive scan.
Initial products will likely be standalone boxes or dongles that will plug into the HDMI wired outlets on a display and a video source, then convert and send uncompressed wireless video at 5 GHz. The company uses 256-bit AES encryption to protect the uncompressed video, which Geri said fulfills the content protection requirements of the wired HDMI standard.
"Once we get our technology in the market, we will put together an interested group of companies to make a standard. We also will seek approval from Hollywood for our content protection," said Geri.
Startup SiBeam aims to pursue similar apps using 60-GHz radios and is expected to have silicon available in late 2007. SiBeam has created an alliance that will seek to make its technology a de facto standard under the name Wireless HD.
Ultrawideband companies such as TZero are sampling silicon now, though they typically support data rates of 1 Gbit/s or less, assuming some compression of HD video. TZero is part of an alliance pursuing Wireless HDMI. Another competitor is RadioSpire Networks, whose chips operate in the 3.1- to 4.8-GHz range to avoid interference with 802.11.
"It will be a while" before a winner emerges, said Mathias. In the meantime, he has cobbled together an effective system. "In my home, I send HDTV around on 802.11 with MIMO, and it looks fine," he said.
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