Intel Sharpens Focus On Wireless Peripherals

At its recent developer forum, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker launched two efforts to speed deployment of certified wireless USB devices. First, Intel plans in the fourth quarter to release a wireless Host Controller Interface that will standardize the method for hardware and software communication. Microsoft, NEC Technologies, Philips Electronics and Texas Instruments are among vendors supporting the effort. Moreover, Intel has opened an interoperability lab where companies can perform initial testing.

Intel plans in the fourth quarter to release a wireless Host Controller Interface.

Though some proprietary wireless USB products are already on the market, Intel said they are not necessarily interoperable and require driver installation. Much as it worked to improve the Wi-Fi experience in notebooks, Intel wants to ensure wireless USB devices are easy to set up and work seamlessly with any device.

Why the interest in wireless USB, a miniscule market at present? Jeff Ravencraft, Intel technology strategist and chairman of the USB Implementers Forum, said wireless is becoming the new norm. “There are people working in Starbucks, and there are people who want to exchange high-bandwidth files. They like the convenience of being untethered,” Ravencraft said.

In addition to the traditional keyboard and mouse, Intel said it expects to see external drives, printers, projectors, TVs and a host of other peripherals move to wireless USB formats.

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Todd Swank, director of marketing for Burnsville, Minn.-based system builder Nor-Tech, said he believes wireless USB devices will be a growing market although he reports little interest to date. “Wireless components now comprise 20 percent of our system builds. That is up significantly from five years ago,” he said.

The Wireless USB specification uses ultra wideband as its radio. Bandwidth is 480 Mbps at 1 meter to 3 meters and 110 Mbps at 3 meters to 10 meters.

Intel also is working on a procedure for adding security to “association,” the process by which a USB device connects to a host for the first time. This additional protection is necessary to ensure unauthorized devices cannot connect to wireless hard drives, cameras and other equipment that may contain sensitive data.