PORTLAND, Ore. The era of the remote control ends today (June 26), according to a presentation on the entertainment control platform (ECP) at the Freescale Technology Forum (Orlando, Fla.).
Using the same wireless radios as ZigBee, Freescale Semiconductor Inc. (Austin, Texas) has defined a simpler networking protocol for controllers and controlled devices that it claims enables wireless interoperability among multiple consumer electronics devices from multiple manufacturers&3151;many of which Freescale says will announce ECP-compatible products before Christmas.
"Imagine coming home with a new DVD. You pop it into your player and it comes on, switches the amplifier input to DVD, adjusts the speakers to surround sound, dims the lights for the movie's opening sceneand you still don't know where the remote is," said Victor Berrios, global platform manager and leader of the team that developed the networking software and protocols for ECP over the past two years.
Freescale is demonstrating its RF wireless entertainment control platformincluding the light-dimming function triggered by DVD insertionin its digital living room at the forum, which runs through June 28. For the demo, Freescale engineers equipped components ranging from televisions, receivers and amplifiers to iPods, DVD players and CD players for ECP compatibility. By next year, Freescale promises to be able to build a nearly identical digital living room, but populated with ECP-enabled consumer electronics brands straight off manufacturers' shelves.
ECP is based on networking software and protocols for the IEEE 802.15.4-based communication standard, designed from the ground up for devices with a very long battery life (measured in years) and correspondingly slow data rates. ZigBee wireless mesh networks also use IEEE 802.15.4, so there is a plethora of radio chips available, some of them already packaged with a Freescale microcontroller. Freescale's microcontroller development system software now includes the ECP networking protocols, in addition to the ZigBee protocols already provided, so OEMs can enable interoperable communications among their consumer devices.
"We are still very much behind ZigBee, but when you are communicating among devices within a relatively small area and don't need mesh networking, ZigBee's hierarchical infrastructure is overkill," said Brian Kelly, global market and applications manager of the group that specifies new global products. "What we do is use the identical IEEE 802.15.4 radio chips as ZigBee but implement the entertainment control platform instead."