By Eric Griffith
October 20, 2005
Bluetooth and ultrawideband (UWB) technologies have been on the road to convergence for a while, as reported back in May — a path that will give future Bluetooth wireless personal area networks (WPANs) a big boost in speed.
Freescale Semiconductor took the first steps on that path earlier this month, hosting a demonstration of its Direct Sequence UWB (DS-UWB) operating under the Bluetooth software stacks at the WiCon (Wireless Connectivity) Americas 2005 show in Santa Clara.
What this means for the future, says Martin Rofheart, director of UWB operations at Freescale, is products that will talk to existing Bluetooth devices without problems. However, if both products have ultrawideband radios, “it detects that and switches over,” he says.
The demo was described as featuring two laptops with UWB and Bluetooth. They’d do a file transfer using Bluetooth running at 1 Megabit per second (Mbps), then do the same file transfer using Open Interface’s BLUETusk software, so the connection uses the Freescale XS110 DS-UWB radio but via the Bluetooth stack. Speed is then 110Mbps.
The BLUETusk software combines OI’s BLUEmagic with TCP/IP streams running in parallel, so it can detect whatever protocols are available, “while keeping the user-friendly Bluetooth profiles and ad-hoc connectivity,” according to OI CTO Greg Burns. He anticipates the Bluetooth/UWB matchup to start in units like cameras and printers that need fast, wireless file transfers, but adds, “This gives us a direct development path to streaming video with Bluetooth ease of use and profile standardization.”
The Bluetooth protocol analyzer/sniffer from Frontline (model FTS4BT) has been modified to see the UWB radio. It was used to monitor the demonstration at WiCon. Rofheart says the tool can also be utilized by developers to accelerate a Bluetooth vendor’s time to market with new products using UWB. Frontline founder Eric Kaplan said in a statement, “Bringing UWB under the Bluetooth logo was a stroke of genius.” The company also makes analyzers for USB, Ethernet and ZigBee.
The Freescale XS110 radio got FCC certification last year, and is shipping now to customers. It has interfaces for USB 2.0, miniPCI, IEEE 1394, Compact Flash, and TCP/IP.
Note that what Freescale supports is not Wireless USB, certified or otherwise, as Freescale and its UWB Forum are leaving that to the other UWB camp, the WiMedia Alliance. Rofheart derides Wireless USB as “great for a PC-centric world.” Freescale sees its strategy of making UWB compatible with various interfaces as better for a “consumer, mobile device world,” with no single architecture and with multiple processors and operating systems. Freescale demonstrated a USB 2.0 backward-compatible wireless solution using UWB back in June with Icron Technologies Corp.