Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Set that screen loose!

I have written about my vision of devices splitting apart into individual functioning parts and being linked wirelessly in the future, once personal area networking (PAN) technology develops and standardises sufficiently.  One main benefit of this future will be the end of cables between devices and the display screens that they use.  Wireless display technology may be one of the first parts of devices to be split apart.  Televisions are typically becoming screens connected to set-top boxes that contain the tuner and other functions.  WiFi based connections to LCD projectors have been available for a couple of years but performance is slow and patchy so they haven't really taken on.  Wireless video needs more suitable protocols and increasingly more bandwidth.  To stream uncompressed high definition (HD) 1080p video wirelessly typically requires between 3 and 5 Gbit/s.  This is what a wireless replacement for the HDMI connections typically found on modern consumer video equipment would need to handle. 

Those looking forward to shipping video around their lounge without wires will be pleased to know that a couple of initiatives already exist, each backed by a number of major consumer electronics manufacturers.  "WiHD" was the first of the two, and operates in the 60GHz band providing a full 5Gbit/s but uses such a small wavelength radio that it is easily attenuated by walls and requiring line of sight between transmitter and receiver, meaning that a multi-room scenario would need extra nodes or repeaters.  The second initiative is known as WHDI, and uses the 5GHz band, has longer range but permits only 3Gbit/s bit-rate.   The danger is that the fight between these two initiatives could be reminiscent of the Betamax/VHS debate.  There is also a chance that UltraWideBand (UWB) technology may also intervene and help accelerate the pace of development of such initiatives.  The promise is that if standardisation and developments continue as per manufacturers' roadmaps, we could see this in consumer products in around five years time.  

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