Standards Groups Showcase Developments In Consumer Electronics

Feb. 12, 2009
As you might expect, industry standards that pertain to consumer electronics continue to evolve. The word “standard” seems to imply something that comes into being and then remains the same for many years. Although there is some truth in th

As you might expect, industry standards that pertain to consumer electronics continue to evolve. The word “standard” seems to imply something that comes into being and then remains the same for many years. Although there is some truth in this, one would never expect a fast-moving industry like consumer electronics to have standards set in stone.

At the 2009 International CES, held last month in Las Vegas, I had a chance to visit with standards groups as well as companies intimately involved with those groups. I learned about the updates to several of these standards, and they were impressive.

WI-FI ALLIANCE Kelly Davis-Fellner, marketing director for the Wi-Fi Alliance, filled me in on that group’s activities. For example, 802.11n is still in draft mode and may be finalized in January 2010. More interesting, though, is the group’s efforts to connect Wi-Fi devices anywhere, with or without a Wi-Fi network available, a feature that’s long overdue.

Consumer applications include printing pictures directly from a camera; sharing music directly with a friend; displaying photos directly from a mobile phone to a TV; and playing video games with friends on different devices. Wi-Fi is late to the party with some of these applications, but it’s good to know that the group expects these features to roll out in 2010.

ZIGBEE ALLIANCE On the ZigBee front, chairman Bob Heile discussed the group’s Smart Energy initiative. Ratified in May 2008, the ZigBee Smart Energy profile was made publicly available last June. It offers companies a secure, easy-to-use wireless platform for developing products that enhance energy management and efficiency for consumers. ZigBee Smart Energy is being rolled out or used by a growing number of utilities. More than 25.3 million meters in North America are committed for installation.

Utilities and consumers can select from 20 certified products representing a range of devices needed to manage home energy consumption, including electricity meters, thermostats, and in-home displays. Tobin Richardson, director of the Smart Energy Initiative, showed us a demo of how it all works for utilities and consumers alike. You can view the video at

USB IMPLEMENTERS FORUM Jeff Ravencraft, USBIF president and chairman, spoke about the latest innovation for USB, namely Super- Speed USB (see “Trailblazing SuperSpeed USB Design And Verif ication” at, ED Online 20506). The spec, which can be found at, promises data transfer rates up to 10 times faster than Hi-Speed USB (USB 2.0) with optimized power efficiency to boot.

There are five new wires: two transmit, two receive, and one ground. Jeff showed me the new 3.0 B plug, which has a second level, compared to the previous version (see the figure). The form factor of the A plug—the one that connects to your computer—stays the same. He also mentioned a new micro connector family that would be used in consumer electronics devices such as cell phones. And, note that the 3.0 spec adds more power for charging—900 mA.

WIRELESS HOME DIGITAL INTERFACE(WHDI) I hadn’t planned on meeting with Leslie Chard, president of WHDI. But he was in the Amimon suite, smiling broadly at the giant strides WHDI has made over the past year. I met with Amimon at the 2008 International CES, where it first showed this new technology for wireless high-definition video connectivity. This year, its suite was packed with people viewing demos of the technology in action.

WHDI technology uses a video modem operating in the 5-GHz unlicensed band for wireless delivery of uncompressed HD video up to 1080p. It provides secure, encrypted HD video delivery through multiple rooms and other potential signal obstructions, such as people and furniture, while maintaining high quality and robustness with less than 1-ms latency.

At the show, WHDI announced that it will use HDCP revision 2.0 (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) as its content protection technology. The group also announced that LG Electronics will be joining the WHDI special interest group (SIG). Current members include Amimon, Hitachi, Motorola, Samsung Electronics, Sharp, and Sony.

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