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WiMedia: wireless multimedia at home

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Based on Joël de Rosnay's Chronicles on the Swiss Up website, made as predictions in the years 2002-2003, UP' Magazine proposes to retranscribe them here week by week, for a little reflection on the time that has passed. Was he right?

Wires are everywhere. Just look behind your TV or computer and you'll find unsightly bunches of wires and cables coiled into hard-to-remove knots that are like dust nests.

This situation will radically change with the emergence of new wireless communication standards for the home, paving the way for the WPAN (wireless personal area network). The dream of home automation, which could not come to fruition for lack of common standards, will finally come true.

On September 3, a consortium called WiMediawas created between nine companies considered major players in the communication and multimedia sectors for the general public: Appairent Technologies, Eastman Kodak Company, Hewlett Packard, Motorola, Philips, Samsung, Sharp Laboratories, Time Domain, and XtremeSpectrum. WiMedia's objective is to achieve true intercompatibility between all devices transmitting image and sound within a radius of one to fifty meters.

Thanks to the WiMedia standard based on the 802.15.3 standard using the 2.4 gigahertz band, it becomes possible to interconnect wirelessly at home, one's DVD and television (even placed in another room), one's MP3 music player, video game console, digital camera or camera, stereo system, printer or scanner, all with one's PC.

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This WiMedia network, working through walls, is obviously ideal for Home Cinema when the internal architecture does not allow to place the screen, the DVD player and the video projector in the same room. Admittedly, we had seen the 802.11b standard for wireless local area networks (WLAN) explode a short while ago, but it is not optimized for very high speeds over short distances. It is mainly suitable for Internet transmissions in public places or offices.

The WiMedia standard allows the transmission of information at a speed of 55 megabits/s over an average distance of 10 m, which can go up to 77 m at 11 megabits/s. The network can be placed on a single person, in a living room or in a car and operates in a fixed or mobile position.

The consortium is also studying the compatibility of multimedia devices with the UWB (ultra wide broadband) standard, which allows images and sound to be transmitted at 100 megabits/s and at a distance of 10 m. At this speed, a 10-minute video clip is transmitted in 10 seconds. The UWB's energy consumption is very low, only 200 milliwatts, lower than that of Bluetooth, which makes it possible to connect a mobile phone to a mini-headset.

Two companies participating in the consortium, XtremeSpectrum and Time Domain are already marketing chips (Trinity and PulsON) specifically designed for the UWB. Specialized software is also being produced. The first WiMedia-labelled consumer products should arrive on the market for Christmas 2003, with an additional cost of about 30$ per device. The chips and software will be integrated into new DVDs, scanners, Hi-Fi systems, PCs or MP3 players.

Another advantage of WiMedia compared to all the other standards is that it is the only one able to feed at the same time three different digital video signals, an Internet connection, three distinct telephones and an audio stream coming from a CD. But not all the problems have been completely overcome yet. The military is in conflict with the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) because the UWB could disrupt certain transmissions, especially GPS.

In addition, competition is increasing. Philips Semiconductors intends to bring video to 2.5 megabit/s over existing Wi-Fi LANs. Another company, ViXS Systems of Toronto, is preparing a low-cost video LAN based on the 802.11a standard, using the 2.5 GHz band. As for the Japanese, they are actively mobilizing: the Ministry of Telecommunications has just launched a development program in collaboration with Sony and Sharp (a partner in the WiMedia consortium...) to launch a UWB multimedia home network at 100 megabits/sec. As for Europe, it remains for the moment locked in the constraints of compatibility and its conflicts with the military over the appropriation of radio frequency spectra... The battle of wireless multimedia promises to be merciless!

Chronicles by Joël de Rosnay on the Swiss Up website / Predictions 2002-2003 on Wifi, RFID, the future of Google, Grid computing, the student of the future... (The crossroads of the future)

To go further: what about today?

– http://www.wimedia.org/en/docs/091819r01aWM_BOD-only-Specification_1.5.pdf

– http://www.lemondeinformatique.fr/actualites/lire-bluetooth-va-passer-la-surmultipliee-en-adoptant-uwb-19040.html

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