Ultra-Wideband Brings Wireless Video to Cars

By David Needle

January 06, 2006

Freescale Semiconductor's technology being shown in SUV at Consumer Electronics Show.

Wait till the guys at Pimp My Ride hear about this.

Freescale Semiconductor is at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week showing off the first automobile application to leverage Ultra-Wideband (UWB) wireless technology. The wireless video system is being shown in a seven-passenger SUV at Delphi Corporation's booth.

Leveraging Freescale's UWB technology, the SUV demo shows the ability to simultaneously stream two separate video streams to two liquid crystal display (LCD) screens mounted on the back of the driver and passenger headrests. This is where one advantage of wireless comes into play, as there's no need for cables and wires to connect to the video server located in the vehicle.

UWB can also be augmented or coexist with other wireless technologies. In the demo, an additional two screens, located on the back of the headrests on the second row in the vehicle, wirelessly receive video using Wi-Fi, or 802.11n , as the wireless technology standard was originally called. Wireless technologies such as Bluetooth are good for applications like wireless phone headsets, but UWB, at rates as much as a hundred times faster, is better suited to applications like video; an MPEG2 movie or HDTV stream can be wirelessly broadcast in real time. Video game players are another good candidate for UWB wireless connections in the car.

Auto makers are finalizing specifications for 2009 and 2010 models, so cars with this wireless capability built-in won't be rolling off the assembly line anytime soon. But aftermarket products will be available this year, Martin Rofheart, director of the UWB Operation at Freescale, told internetnews.com. Belkin, for one, is showing wireless products at CES enabled by Freescale's UWB technology.

Belkin introduced what it says is the first UWB-enabled product for the U.S. market. The Belkin CableFree USB Hub, $125 retail, is the industry's first USB Hub that does not require a cable to connect to the computer. Beginning in early spring, Belkin plans to offer a four-port hub that will enable immediate high-speed wireless connectivity for any USB device without requiring software.

"With USB 2.0 wireless you don't have to worry about finding the connector, or the number of connectors or other hassles," said Rofheart. "And this also opens up USB to non-traditional settings like cars, media servers, AV racks and home theaters, where you can't always conveniently reach the USB port. And it solves the rat's nest of cabling." USB 2.0 can support up to 127 devices.

Rofheart said Freescale has a broad technology roadmap that encompasses TCP/IP, Bluetooth and other connectivity standards in the future. "We want to continue what we're doing with USB, which is to take a complex technology and make it absolutely simple for the consumer, so that they don't have to take any action; it just works," he said.

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