Friday, September 25, 2009

Wireless Remote Control to Replace Infrared

For years infrared was the established standard for remote control devices. With little data to transfer and battery power usage being one of the primary criteria, it was a good solution. Today, data bandwidth requirements are going up so wireless comes into play as an alternative.

Bluetooth 3.0 brings a higher data rate and a Unicast Connectionless Data (UCD) feature that helps wireless compete with infrared for remote control applications. This article points out the reduce power consumption of UCD extending the life of batteries in a remote up to 4 years. Also, the new version reduces latency. In general wireless brings other advantages over infrared such as two-way communications, a longer range, and no line of sight requirements.

Critics claim that Bluetooth is overkill for this application. The cost for a Bluetooth based remote control will be higher than an infrared one which currently costs about $1. Customers will have to decide if they are willing to pay the extra price for the additional features. In addition to TVs the chip manufacturers are targeting set top boxes and other devices.

One challenge for wireless in this space is the fact that wireless protocols are proprietary and creating standards can be challenging. Something the consumer electronics industry is slow to lead but quick to adopt when established. In this position paper from the Bluetooth consortium, they highlight this issue. With a standard in place, this key hurdle is removed.

Best regards,

Hall T.

Friday, September 18, 2009

1Gb/s Data Rates Coming Soon

The wireless data market continues to boom. According to this report, the wireless data market grew over 30% year over year and and now exceeds $10B in revenue each quarter. The recession has done little to slow the growth in this area.

Currently WiFi data rates run around 600K but new technologies on the horizon will push those rates to 1 GB/s. In this article you can see how WiMAX and LTE compare to other wireless standards for data rates.

In this presentation the developer proposes WIGWAM Wireless Gigabit with Advanced Multimedia Support to improve RF, baseband processing, integration, and protocol and radio resource management to achieve it.

The paper presents an overview survey of emerging wireless technologies suitable for short reach (<100m) RF communication starting from the existing high bit-rate systems (802.11n, 802.15.3a) and ending with 60 GHz mm-wave radios. Basic principles, power dissipation levels and hardware realization challenges in silicon are discussed. Prospects of building technologies that achieve Gigabit per second data rates are investigated.

For a refresher in the basics, check out this article on Shannon's law and the impact of signal power, noise, and interference on data rates.

Best regards,

Hall T.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Emerging Technology -- Millimeter Wave Range

The millimeter range covers the 30 to 300 GHz frequency range. The telecom world uses this range primarily for microwave data communications. The military uses it for a system Active Denial System which concentrates a beam of RF energy on a subject forcing them to flee. security systems at airports make use of the frequency band for detecting weapons on passengers passing through the screening system.

Reuters recently reported that telecom companies are relying increasingly on the microwave range for back haul traffic. While it's been in use for some time, wireline circuits are not able to keep up with the growing demand. Back haul is the term used by the industry for carrying data back to the central office.

In 2001, the FCC set aside 7 bands between 57 and 64 GHz as unlicensed bandwidth. For that reason the 60 GHz frequency range is of interest to researchers today. Research topics include mobile ad hoc networks, modeling the radio channel and optimizing its performance, developing low-power sensor networks, and developing high data rate systems as found here.

Best regards,
Hall T.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Semiconductor technology--Multiple radios on a Smartphone

In reading about the future of Smartphone one theme that runs through is the need to connect to the cloud and that cloud contains many different sources of information. In fact, there will be an increasing number of information points to connect to and so we'll see more radios coming into the mobile device.

Today there are up to six radios on a smartphone. These include Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, Cellular, TV, and perhaps WiMAX in the near future.
With so many radios on one phone, the next step is to start reusing the radios from application to the next. Here's one example of that concept. Several chip vendors are starting to combine multiple radios onto one chip such as Broadcom's combination of GPS, Bluetooth, and FM.

The next step in technology evolution is the migration of radios to other devices. This becomes possible the semiconductor circuitry surrounding the radios is becoming more integrated and thus cheaper to build into lower cost devices. For a complete history of wireless, please check out this site.

Best regards,

Hall T.