WUSB: An Untethered Dream About Peripherals


There's a new technology on the horizon that promises to shake up how we think about peripherals. That technology is the recently ratified Wireless USB (WUSB) standard, and it aims to bring an end to the tangle of wires often created by the myriad of USB peripheral devices commonly used on today's desktop and notebook systems.

FRANK J. OHLHORST
Can be reached via e-mail at fohlhorst@cmp.com.

WUSB is the result of a three-year journey of moving Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology onto desktop systems and achieving, finally, high-speed, secure and reliable connectivity between devices for distances as far as 10 meters.

Although WUSB sounds a lot like Bluetooth, there are some significant differences. First off, WUSB promises speeds as fast as 480 Mbps (equivalent to wired USB 2.0), and the technology touts low power needs. In other words, WUSB devices will be faster and will provide much longer battery life than Bluetooth.

What's more, the UWB radio spectrum is less prone to interference because the technology uses transceivers that operate in the 3.1 to 10.6GHz frequency range and spreads communication over an ultra-wide band of frequencies. That means that WUSB devices should not fall prey to interference from other wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cordless phones and even microwave ovens.

WUSB offers a lot of possibilities to the channel and to the desktop user. The technology will allow devices such as high-speed hard drives, keyboards, digital cameras and the like to be quickly associated with a PC. That could prove very advantageous to mobile workers who would be able to simply plop their notebook computers down on their desks and have access to close-by printers, scanners and storage devices.

The technology uses a one-to-one paradigm. A device can be only associated with a single PC at a time, which helps to maintain security. What's more, the device and the PC share a "key" number, which prevents devices from being hijacked.

Setup will be simple. Users will use a USB cable to connect the device the first time around so that the PC and the device can associate with each other. But after that, there will be no need for the cable.

Personally, I hope to see the technology take off, and take off sooner rather than later. I, for one, would love to see a modular notebook computer where the CPU can stay in the bag and the keyboard and an OLED-based display can be used just a few feet away.

Now, that would be great for the traveler.

WHAT EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES ARE YOU DREAMING ABOUT?
YOU CAN SEND LETTERS AND FEEDBACK TO FRANK J. OHLHORST, DIRECTOR OF THE
CRN TEST CENTER, AT FOHLHORST@CMP.COM.