MANHASSET , N.Y. -- Atmel Corp. will serve as an alternate source for Cypress Semiconductor Corp.'s proprietary WirelessUSB interface chips, supporting Cypress' goal of making the technology an open, de facto wireless standard for consumer and computer products.
Wielding the devices' low power, low cost and low networking-protocol overhead, the two will try to fill what they call a wireless void between low-end RFID and higher-end Zigbee and Bluetooth solutions.
Some chip industry leaders have called for an end to proliferating standards, but Cypress said another is needed. "There's a gap in the standards where you don't need the networking complexity and associated cost of Zigbee and Bluetooth, and which is being addressed by proprietary implementations," said Norm Taffe, the company's managing director of wireless. Cypress will push to make WirelessUSB a standard, he said, and Atmel will help.
The technology is aimed at broad end markets, including toys, game controllers, peripherals and remote controls.
In this, Cypress may have identified an unserved niche, said Craig Mathias, principal at Farpoint Group (Ashland, Mass.). "There's still an opportunity at this level where networking isn't required and all you want to do is connect devices," he said.
Cutting complexity Cypress developed WirelessUSB for the unlicensed 2.4-GHz band, minimizing its complexity by stripping out networking protocols and supporting a simple multipoint-to-point scheme. Key features include good interference immunity, latency of under 2 milliseconds and a data rate of 62 kbits/second. Sensitivity is - 90 dBm, output power is 0 dBm and the average current draw is 8 milliamps while in constant use. The devices "shut down completely" when not in use and can last "from four to six months without recharge, vs. three to six weeks for Bluetooth," Taffe said.
Cypress introduced WirelessUSB in 2002, moved the chips into production in December 2003 and has since shipped "hundreds of thousands" of units, Taffe said. "While we're currently under $2 per transceiver, we're focused on getting to $1." The transceiver includes a baseband and RF section, and a 4-bit SPI interface.
Atmel will license WirelessUSB technology and algorithms from Cypress and ship rebranded Cypress chips to customers by the third quarter. "The next step is co-development of the next generation, which will be available in 2005," said Hartmut Fischer, general manager of Atmel's communications IC division (Heilbronn, Germany).
"We both feel this is the first step toward the standardization of WirelessUSB," said Taffe.