Friday, May 06, 2005

The Other Short-range Wireless Communications --- UltraWideBand and Near Field Communication

In addition to WLAN, Bluetooth, and Zigbee, two other short-range wireless communication efforts are gaining interest. The first is called UltraWideBand (UWB). Ultrawideband overlays onto existing spectrum (almost 7.5 GHz) and can theoretically transmit data at 500 Mbps. It operates on low-power CMOS devices at a relatively low cost. It uses a series of short electrical pulses through band filtering to an antenna. To prevent interference with other signals, its signal power is limited based on the application.

Wireless Data Facts predicts UltraWideBand nodes and chipsets will grow at 400% between 2005 and 2008. The Bluetooth SIG is expected to announce an effort to make Bluetooth compatible with Ultrawideband. A joint Bluetooth/UWB solution would give users an increased data rate over standalone Bluetooth which is currently limited to 3 Mbps.

For market acceptance, the story is mixed. On the up side Microsoft recently joined the WiMedia Alliance . The WiMedia camp is concentrating upon eliminating the wires used in USB and IEEE 1394 devices. Microsoft’s participation brings new firepower to the effort. On the downside, standards battles could keep UWB from taking off. There are over 20 proposals on the table.

The other short-range wireless effort has been around for awhile and is called
Near Field Communications. The NFC Consortium lead by
Nokia, Philips and Sony,
proposes a standard for consumer electronic devices that allow two devices to exchange information with little or no effort by the user. Networking in the computer world can be done in a more elaborate way, but in the consumer electronic world, less is more. To initiate an NFC communication the user need only “touch” the two devices together.

A whitepaper by the NFC consortium outlines several use cases including transferring photos from a digital camera to a digital television set. If you want to take information from your computer to a PDA so you can take it with you on the road, you need only touch your PDA to the computer and the information is uploaded.

A short tutorial indicates that NFC operates on an inductive RF link at 13.56 MHz and at a close range of 20 cm or less. Data rates for NFC are estimated at 1 Mbps. It targets device-to-device communications (e.g. mobile phone to PC), and promises ease of use, as the user need only hold two NFC-enable devices close together to enable the communication. One device is the initiator and the other is the target. Any device can be either initiator or target. Here’s a web-site with more technical specs.

NFC holds out the added promise that it could make money for the communications operators who might replace Bluetooth with it in the next generation phones. Here’s more on the story.

If you are working in wireless communications, I would like to hear from you. Please email me at hall.martin@ni.com.

Best regards,
Hall T. Martin

5 Comments:

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Friday, August 04, 2006 6:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog!
I really enjoyed looking over your last post. Pet peeve #1 - People with a cellphone plastered to their ear while trying to drive. Don't they realize all they have to do is go to www.bluetoothbargains.comwireless headset get a wireless headset and make driving alot easier for all of us. Soon laws will require it! Well, keep the great posts coming and I'll be back to check it out.

Saturday, August 05, 2006 5:11:00 AM  
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